Across China, people excited to see the historic inauguration of an African-American as US President stayed up into the early hours to watch the news. But many were disappointed, if not downright annoyed, when censors snipped at Barack Obama’s inaugural address.
The speech seemed to catch by surprise the mandarins whose task is to protect television viewers from offensive remarks. There was a clear moment of confusion when the new President mentioned communism.
State-run China Central Television was broadcasting the speech live – already an extraordinary event in a country that usually adds a delay of several seconds to every broadcast just in case of mishap – when President Obama said: “Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism….”
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The simultaneous interpreter proceeded smoothly with her translation but her voice faded out with the rest of the President’s sentence. The picture cut from the Capitol to an awkwardly smiling news anchor unprepared for the camera to return to her and apparently awaiting instructions in her earpiece. She turned to a reporter in the studio for comment on Mr Obama’s economic challenges. Yet more confusion as the flustered young woman sought refuge in the notes on her desk.
The cutaway seemed to misfire. While many Chinese may not have noticed, the more alert were soon commenting on internet chatrooms. One said: “Why did CCTV do this. Too timid.” But replays of the moment were available on Youtube.com.