Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Obama’s First Inaugural Address (Chinese edition)

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The leading story amid the world reaction to Tuesday’s Inauguration is the deletion of a few choice phrases in the Chinese translation of President Obama’s address. “Earlier generations” of Americans confronted fascism and communism, and Xinhua removed references to anti-Western posturing and the “silencing of dissent.” Censorship might be too strong a term for an effort as sloppy as this:  as the BBC and other sources note, Xinhua still permitted the full English version, and it seems unlikely that China would (or could) block the .mp3 and video files that are proliferating online (having recorded a few snippets myself, I can vouch that anyone within sight of a jumbotron on the Mall could walk away with their own audio copy), and which could be translated with some effort.

Downplay, disarm, dilute:  all better words that spring to mind here. As The Economist pointed out a week ago, 2009 features a long hot (not to mention recessionary) summer of Chinese political anniversaries, from Tiananmen Square (twenty years) to the banning of the Falun Gong (ten years) to the revolutionary success of the CCP (sixty years). Given the soft power potential of an Obama Administration – and I’m wagering this will become more evident in the coming year, with another Berlin-like example – China’s leaders are bound to be cautious about letting anything political “go viral” in the Chinese-language web. Especially a speech which references official “corruption and deceit” shortly after a tainted milk scandal. Given another week or two, a new leading story will take over, and President Obama’s first address will miss its viral moment.

Josh Chin from GlobalPost has an Inauguration Day post on the standing of Inauguration reporting relative to stories about the Spring Festival in Beijing media…part of a terrific series of reports on global reactions to President Obama’s swearing-in.

Written by Mark

January 22, 2009 at 3:01 am

Posted in Random

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