Byline: Chris O'Brien, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BEIJING -- For China's notoriously conservative propaganda czars, the decision to allow President Obama's inauguration speech to be beamed live into the nation's homes was bold.
It backfired as soon as Mr. Obama said the magic word - communism.
Chinese who stayed up into the early hours to watch the historic swearing-in ceremony, looked on as the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) abruptly cut away from its coverage of Mr. Obama's address when he spoke of how earlier generations faced down fascism and communism.
The censors didn't wait to hear the rest of the offending sentence - not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions and proceeded to mute the Chinese interpreter, abandon the shot of the U.S. Capitol and seek refuge with a flustered studio anchor.
She in turn passed the buck to an unprepared analyst via video link, asking her to comment on the United States' economic woes. What had begun as a promising exercise in openness degenerated into a familiar display of paranoia from the country's publicity department.
Chinese newspaper readers didn't fare much better. The official translation carried by the state news agency Xinhua omitted Mr. Obama's reference to communism and wiped out a whole paragraph: To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
The censored translation was published on the country's main Internet portals Sina and Sohu. However, in another example of censorship struggling to cope with the power of the Internet, leading news portal Netease retained the reference to dissent, only removing the word communism.
Several Internet users posted their own undoctored translations of Mr. Obama's speech and left angry comments criticizing the censors' actions. Some posted YouTube links of CCTV's hasty programming shift.
The English transcript of the speech, printed in the state-run China Daily newspaper, was unaltered. This version was also posted on some Chinese-language Internet forums with one wag suggesting users play spot the difference.
The decision by CCTV to suspend its live feed of Mr. Obama's inaugural address comes a week after the broadcaster was forced to defend its record in the face of a proposed boycott of its programs by more than 20 Chinese lawyers, writers and intellectuals.
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