The intricacies of trade policy don’t usually make for gripping prime-time television, but that may well change on Wednesday (May 29), when anchors from Fox Business Network and China’s state broadcaster butt heads in a highly anticipated debate.
The invitation for a verbal sparring came via Twitter from Fox Business’ Trish Regan.
Liu Xin, a host on CGTN—the overseas arm of China Central Television (CCTV) that is controlled (paywall) by the Chinese Communist Party—was quick to accept, with one caveat: no “mud throwing.” To which Regan responded, “Don’t worry—I don’t sling mud, I sling facts. So, let’s find a date.”
The details were confirmed soon after. Regan and Liu would face off in a prime-time debate, to air on Fox Business on Wednesday at 8pm ET.
Regan, who joined Fox Business as an anchor in 2015, is the host of Trish Regan Primetime. She ran into controversy last year when she described Denmark as a bleak nation that “like Venezuela, has stripped people of their opportunities,” earning an angry retort (paywall) from the Danish finance minister.
Liu anchors The Point, a prime-time current affairs show, and has been working with CCTV since 1997, when she graduated from Nanjing University’s English studies program. In the days since the debate with Regan was announced, a video of Liu competing in an international English speech competition in 1996 in London has made the rounds on Chinese social media.
The debate comes after the latest talks between the two countries broke down earlier this month and the US government raised tariffs on virtually all China imports to 25%, to which China responded with new tariffs of its own.
It’s unclear how Chinese audiences will be able to watch the debate, which CGTN has called “history’s first” (link in Chinese). But People’s Daily, CCTV, and state backed tabloid Global Times (links in Chinese) have all shared news of the impending showdown.
The viral kerfuffle between the two women started last week when Liu insisted that China would never accept an unequal trade deal, slamming Regan for her “economic warmongering” and for being “all emotion and accusation—supported with little substance.”
Liu was responding to comments Regan had made about the US-China trade war a week earlier, when she accused China of “stealing as high as $600 billion in intellectual property” every year from the US, and said the country would “keep on stealing it if left unchecked.”
Regan’s suggestion for punishing China: Refuse to buy from them. “If we stop buying, they stop earning. This is our weapon, and this is a weapon president Trump isn’t afraid to use.”
Liu hit back, criticizing what she called Regan’s “derogatory” language and behavior that “cross a line of decency.” She insisted that “China will remain ‘the adult in the room.’ “
Chinese internet users appear to be eagerly awaiting the big debate. Many praised Liu’s calm and professional demeanor, while condemning what one described as Regan’s reckless, tantrum-like behavior.
“Did Trish learn her speaking style from the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment]?” wrote one user on social network Weibo. “She speaks as if she’s wrestling. It’s all sensationalism. She’s a classic demagogue like Trump.”
One enterprising English teacher, perhaps sensing an opportunity for more business amid the trade war spat, wrote, “Why do Chinese people need to learn English? So that we can tell the world how great our motherland is.”
This story has been clarified to reflect that Trish Regan is a host on Fox Business Network.