Marker for later comment: Chinese censorship of Obama's speech

During 48+ hours on US soil during this visit, I've had several flashes of the realization that I have been more affected by the preceding 2.5 years in China than I thought. For instance: if I were still sitting watching CCTV in Beijing, I would have taken it for granted if certain live dispatches from the US or Europe suddenly disappeared from the screen, because an interviewee had unexpectedly made a "sensitive" point.

But from within the US on this trip, I realize that it's actually quite incredible that Chinese broadcast authorities-- representing the world's most populous nation, the one whose relations with the U.S. will make a huge difference to the entire world's future, the country that presented itself to all other countries as a full, major, mature power with its Olympic games -- would pull the plug on live coverage of Barack Obama's inaugural address just because Obama began talking about the virtues of dissent.

Obama apparently also erred by mentioning America's struggle against communism -- sensitive because, even though much of China seems more openly market-minded than the United States, it is still officially ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.

Account from Danwei.org here. My first reaction is, Jeeesh!! Can a big country really act in this tinhorn way? And my second reaction is the depressing realization that I would barely have noticed if I were still on scene.

More on the nuances of this shortly. In the meantime, this is connected to the phenomenon I discussed here. Also, read the comments on that Danwei site. (Plus this.) They bring it all back!

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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