A certain amount of parrying with senior American officials is expected on such occasions, but the editorials, articles and comments by Chinese analysts contained unusual bite. Some of them were about Mrs. Clinton personally, while others were more broadly focused on the Obama administration’s policies.
“The United States should stop its role as a sneaky troublemaker sitting behind some nations in the region and pulling strings,” a writer specializing in foreign policy said in Xinhua, the state-run news service.
That appeared to be a direct reference to statements by Mrs. Clinton about China’s increasingly assertive claims in maritime disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea.
Mrs. Clinton, who will meet Wednesday with China’s president, Hu Jintao, and his likely successor, Xi Jinping, said in Indonesia on Monday that China should start discussions with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, on developing a code of conduct designed to resolve disputes through negotiation rather than force.
Almost a year ago, the Obama administration announced a new focus on the Asia-Pacific region, and this summer the Pentagon said it would deploy more naval assets to the Pacific Ocean. In Beijing, that policy has been unfavorably interpreted as containment of China, and Washington’s interest in the South China Sea is seen as part of that.
“For the United States, the South China Sea is not a matter of territorial disputes,” said Professor Wu Xinbo, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai. “It’s an issue of strategic gaming. The United States is concerned about China’s naval growth.”
Mrs. Clinton, who has traveled to China often as secretary of state, is generally viewed here as tough and not necessarily China’s best friend. In early July, during an Asia trip that did not include China, Mrs. Clinton said in Mongolia that in the long run, the Chinese government could not expect to govern successfully if it did not accord its citizens greater human rights.
When the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, arrived in Beijing in late July on his first visit in that position, the official news media were more welcoming. As the foreign policy adviser who is closest to President Obama, and one who has said little in public about China, the Chinese leaders may have felt Mr. Donilon would be more receptive to their positions, Chinese and American analysts said.
In contrast, a commentary in the state-run Global Times on Tuesday was blunt about Mrs. Clinton. “Many Chinese people do not like Secretary Clinton,” the commentary said, according to a translation from Chinese into English by the American Embassy. “The antipathy and vigilance that she personally has brought to the Chinese public are not necessarily in the United States’ diplomatic interest,” it added.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has gone out of its way in the last two days to say that only those countries directly involved in South China Sea territorial disputes should participate in their solutions, a direct message to the Obama administration.
But countries in the region that are not in conflict with China over South China Sea claims and are friendly with the United States — India, Indonesia and Singapore — have voiced concerns about China’s recent tactics over the strategic waters.
In particular, they have cited China’s blocking of a diplomatic communiqué at an Asean summit meeting in Cambodia in July. The document called for dealing with the South China Sea conflicts on a collaborative basis, but China, according to participants in the discussions, prevailed on Cambodia to object, and the summit closed without a communiqué.
“China’s evident pressure on the Association of South East Asian Nations has undermined 20 years of Chinese ‘charm diplomacy,’ said an Asian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity per diplomatic practice.
“If Asean is divided, this will ultimately rebound against China’s interests because it could well catalyze the very thing China fears most: containment by the United States as anxious smaller countries will naturally cluster around the United States for balance,” the diplomat said.