As noted several times earlier (here and here), the CCTV authorities in charge of the live broadcast of Barack Obama's inaugural address apparently got flustered when they started hearing him talk about "dissent" and "confronting communism," and cut away from live coverage.
Now (thanks to several friends who have pointed this out), the official People's Daily has carried a Chinese translation of the speech that includes even the "sensitive" parts. Chinese version here.
I am not capable of judging the refinement of this translation. But I can see that it carries the two passages that caused problems for the broadcasters. Details after the jump.
Moral? First, as mentioned so many times before here and in the Atlantic, the uncertainty about what will be allowed or forbidden is itself an important control tool. If you never know when you might be crossing the line, you end up being extra-careful (which may have been the mentality of the people inside CCTV). Second, and also familiar to readers here, this is a reminder that China itself and even the ruling Chinese Communist Party is full of countless contradictory views, factional and ideological differences, individuals who see things their own way, etc.
And, finally, something about the difficulties this kind of ruling system has in making decisions quickly, before checking what the "proper" response is supposed to be. I won't bother with a long list of similar examples, but I'm struck that while Chinese business and many Chinese individuals are amazing fast-reacting and adaptable, the political structure is much less so.
Explication de texte below.
Tricky passage #1 from Obama's address:
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.
People's Daily version:
Somebody other than me can judge the overall fidelity here, but I can tell that it explicitly mentions confronting fascism and, yes, communism ( 共产主义).
Tricky passage #2:
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.
People's Daily version #2:
To me it looks as if the Chinese version includes references to corruption (腐败), disagreement or dissent (异议), and the fist (拳头).
Again, I am capable of only rebus-style comprehension here, not a judgment of what other ways the thoughts could have been rendered. (I am sure I can and will hear from others in the know!) But it's enough to suggest that the major official newspaper felt confident conveying the gist of what Obama was saying, even though the broadcasters apparently panicked in real time. This is illustration #3,287 of why it's tricky to say that "China" or "the Chinese" or even "the Chinese regime" will behave in a certain way. Different parts of it respond different ways in different circumstances.
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