It is said that an individual’s fears can be seen in what they spend their life avoiding and evading. As for governments, their fears are exposed in what they censor, and yesterday’s Inauguration speech by the new US president Barack Obama (wow, it feels good to type that for the first time ever) seems to have struck a few chords of fear and worry in Beijing, as parts of Obama’s speech which referenced “Communism” and the wider topics of “corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent” have been axed from state television, newspapers and online forums.
More specifically – according to the BBC News site, here – Chinese language translations of the speech are being censored to remove the ‘offending’ passages, and no mention of these passages has been made in newspapers or on TV, which are all effectively state-controlled. English-language text of the speech, however, is not being meddled with. But there’s definite evidence in lots of online forums that the Chinese text has been clearly expurgated in two distinct places.
On the cutting room floor…
President Obama, in the context of the challenges that his citizens have overcome in the past, said: “Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.” This has clearly caused anxiousness in Beijing, and has been cut.
Then, later, Obama clearly addressed other world leaders on several points, and stated: “”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.” Very tellingly, this too has been cut from Chinese translations, despite it not directly referencing Communism, or any country or alliance, and coming a couple of minutes after the previous ‘offending’ statement.
So, does this mean that authorities in Beijing know very well that they are ‘corrupt’, ‘deceitful’ and actively ‘silence dissent’ (Obama’s words, not mine), and that they fear their own citizens realising this, perhaps from the words of another country’s leader? Or, more generally, is it a bit of knee-jerk paranoia. Either way, it certainly is telling.
Alternatively, is it a case of the state-media not wanting to give full voice to a leader whose youth and charisma seems somewhat threatening to a roomful of crinkly, dye-haired old chaps? Or is someone at Big Brother HQ just a bit scissor-happy today? Feel free to share any thoughts and ideas in the comments.