I mentioned yesterday that even though the censors at China's CCTV apparently panicked in real time, and cut off coverage of Barack Obama's inaugural address when he started talking about "dissent" and "communism," the editors of People's Daily, with more time and calm to reflect, had provided a full, translated version of the speech -- including this touchy passage:

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

(Reminder: China is still officially ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, even though much of its economy runs on wide-open market principles.)

I just got a note from Donald Clarke, a law professor at George Washington University in DC, acting on a tip from David Kelly, of the China Research Center at University of Technology Sydney, asking whether I was certain about the link I had provided, here. Because he had checked the People's Daily version -- and he didn't see any mention of the struggle against communism.

So I went back and checked -- and he's right! The same link to the same page with the same official translation of Obama's speech is virtually the same as the original, except that someone carefully removed the word "communism."  ("Dissent" is still in there.) Here's the play by play:

1) Sentence in Obama's speech:

"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."

2) Version in People's Daily yesterday, which (as best I can judge) is a pretty faithful rendering of Obama's statement. I should note that I directly cut-and-pasted this from the PD site, as an indication that it actually was there at some point:


3) Same sentence from the same translation at the same site today, with no notice of any change:


And what's the difference? The disappearance of these five characters, 和共产主义, meaning "and communism." So now Obama talks only about the victory over fascism and about no other foe.

Which in turn means: in calm deliberation, after initially deciding the Chinese readership could stand to hear an American president talk about struggles over fascism and communism, the editors went back a day later, altered the translation, and gave no indication that they were doing so. (Update. Alternative hypothesis suggested to me: someone at PD "accidentally did the right thing" by translating the whole speech; then this "error" was corrected as soon as people in charge realized what had happened.)

If I had the time right now to call up the internet way-back machine and get the version of People's Daily from yesterday, I could prove that 24 hours ago it included the now-missing five characters. But, again, the indirect proof is that the part I quoted yesterday was cut-and-pasted directly from what the People's Daily was showing at the time.

To repeat: un-$#$#()&$-believable -- in the insecurity, the hamhandedness, and the immaturity this reveals. 

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