The three decades of “world–shaking” reform and the opening up are believed to have brought enormous changes to China. Today, few can deny China’s crucial position in the global economy. However, aside from the obvious economic changes, it is uncertain whether the previously mysterious, untouchable and reclusive China thoroughly reformed itself from the demonized character during the globalization trend and years after the Cold War. Today, when ‘national image becomes an important part in soft power competition among countries…and a very signifi cant strategic issue China faces in the development process’, this article aims at examining the scope and specifi c ‘frames’ that American mainstream news media use to report on China’s party-state leaders over the past 3 decades. Through the contents analysis of Time and Newsweek, the study fi nds that the image of China’s party-state leaders has not been drastically different under the framing. Since the judging criteria for the American mainstream news media towards political leadership has not signifi cantly changed, they would still show certain disapprovals to the political aspects of China not change at all even after thirty years reform. Copyright © 2009 Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.