Brookings Institution’s Cheng Li, Research Director and Senior Fellow of the Thornton China Center, was interviewed by Gwen Ifill on the PBS Newshour February 14, during Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S. Li remarked that while Xi was generally considered politically conservative, he took a courageous stand on a highly sensitive political issue during his tenure as Party Secretary of Zhejiang province. In 2007, Xi allowed the ashes of the U.S. Ambassador to China (1946-1949), John Leighton Stuart, a man famously denounced by Chairman Mao as a symbol of American imperialism, to be buried in Hangzhou. Stuart, the son of missionaries, was born in Hangzhou in 1876. The late C-100 Chairman John Fugh (whose father, Philip Fugh, was Stuart’s lifelong assistant) escorted Stuart’s ashes to China.
Li went on to note that Xi was more concerned with how the Chinese domestic audience perceived his visit to U.S. than with how Americans responded to him. Li commented that “certainly [Xi] has a more important audience at home, because he has a dilemma. If he is perceived as unnecessarily confrontational and not like a statesman or global leader, that will hurt him. But if he is perceived as a person very soft toward the United States or too accommodating to the United States or even sacrifices China's interests, that will be a disaster. So he’s got to keep a balance.”