C’mon, did anyone expect differently? Outlets like Politico were running “Will Trump stick up for reporters in China?” stories days ago, anticipating POTUS’s indifference to Chinese officials strong-arming American media. He had no incentive to object, though. He hates most of the media for covering him harshly and openly admires what Chinese authoritarians are permitted to get away with in silencing their own opponents. There’s no grassroots pressure on him to behave differently either. Neoconservatives will grumble about the press being stifled but POTUS’s base hates the media even more than he does:

The only reason Trump had to insist on questions at today’s presser was a felt civic duty to advocate for liberal values like freedom of the press and government accountability in a country that’s hostile to them. Again: C’mon.

Donald Trump appears to have become the first US President in decades not to take questions from reporters during a key press conference on his first state visit to China.

“It was at the Chinese insistence there were no questions today,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, later said.

Mr Trump’s predecessors – Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama – all agreed with their Chinese counterparts to take questions at official press conferences, according to CNN.

Former Obama flack Jay Carney was indignant:

But there’s a shocking twist!

Obama didn’t insist on questions during his first trip to China either. But there’s a twist to the twist: Obama *did* speak out against government censorship at another event during that same trip, a townhall meeting with Chinese students. Sample quote: “The more freely information flows, the stronger a society becomes. Citizens can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas and encourages creativity.” We’ll see if Trump pipes up with something similar before he leaves for home.

The best defense to him caving to the Chinese on this is that there’s more than usual at stake between the U.S. and China, raising the potential cost of any affront. North Korea’s nuclearization is nearing a crisis stage and China just signed multiple (many non-binding) commitments with Trump worth $250 billion to the United States potentially. From a cold realpolitik perspective, major economic and international cooperation is worth skipping a symbolic gesture about media freedom that won’t do anything to improve press independence in China once Trump leaves. From a civil libertarian perspective, these things matter as pillars of liberal democracy. When you’re in a clash-of-civilizations spotlight like Trump is today, you stand up for your side. America First!

Hey, at least he didn’t bow to the Japanese emperor, right? Better to kowtow to authoritarian culture in cordially hostile nations like China while standing tall against some of America’s staunchest liberal-democratic allies. Here he is at today’s joint conference with Xi insisting that Sino-American trade is unbalanced but, uh — am I reading this correctly? He doesn’t blame China for it? He accused China of “raping” America as a candidate! Gadzooks, he’s gone full cuck.