China's Flag at the White House?

Prompted by what officials say are inaccurate reports from China, the White House is denying claims it will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic by flying the Chinese flag on the South Lawn. China Daily, citing other media reports, says the President of the Fujian Association of the United States has been granted permission to hoist the flag "in a ceremony in front of the President's residence." Actually, the ceremony will take place on the Ellipse, not on the White House grounds, on the other side of E Street from the Presidential residence.

China Daily claimed the flag decision was a testament to strong US-Chinese relations and recognition of China's success in hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics. The report set off howls of protest on the internet and among conservative talk show hosts, who failed to get confirmation from the White House before airing their complaints.

Demonstrations by foreign groups on the Ellipse or in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, are not uncommon, but foreign flags are only flown on the White House grounds or on Pennsylvania Avenue to mark State or Official visits of the country's leaders. The Chinese flag actually has flown on White House grounds before, in April of 2006, when President Hu Jintao visited then President George W. Bush.

In fact the current controversy is reminiscent of that visit. The Chinese insisted it was a 'State visit,' despite US assurances it was only an 'official' one. The 'State visit' label implied a bigger honor to Hu and to China, but Mr. Bush only had a handful of 'State visits' and Hu's wasn't one of them. Still, Chinese media continued to report it was a State visit, even after it was over, and they continue to report the Fujian Association rally will take place on the White House lawn, though US officials insist it will not.