China: No Media Censorship of Obama

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A White House official says China has assured the U.S. there will be no media censorship of President Barack Obama's remarks during a three-day visit that will take him to Shanghai and Beijing.

The official told CBS News the administration secured a Chinese government promise to carry the President's remarks "as spoken." The official also said the White House would be ready to "make it a big story" if China blocks out any of the President's words.

Government censors removed references to communism and dissent from the official Chinese language translation of President Obama's January inaugural speech. The main Chinese television network also wiped out certain passages from the inaugural speech.

John Delury, Associate Director of Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations, says Chinese people are very aware of government efforts to control information flow.

"There's a cat and mouse game that goes on, but the reality on the ground in China is there is pretty good access to most of the information," Delury said. "China is a pretty wired place, especially the cities and the younger generation."

Experts say knowledgeable web-surfers know how to get around government efforts to block web sites and search engines.

The first test of the new promise not to censor the President will come when he holds a Shanghai "town hall" meeting with young Chinese leaders. While the discussion may not be censored, it was not clear whether China would air the event on the main television network.

Coverage plans have been part of intense U.S.-Chinese negotiations. The President's advance team contacted Chinese bloggers to help assure the spread of his message. The official New China News Service reported nearly 3,300 questions had been submitted for Obama.

Topics of interest include the President's Afghanistan war policy, his views on Taiwan and his thoughts about winning the Nobel Peace Prize. In a country where few have any knowledge of their own leaders' private lives, there are also questions about the Obama daughters.

Americans who live in or travel to China report widespread interest in all things Obama. The Asia Society's Delury recalls many Chinese were "taken aback" by Barack Obama's election.

Some assumed Hillary Clinton was "entitled" to the White House because of her husband's presidency. She was viewed as "the anointed one." Delury said it took some time for many Chinese citizens to make sense of Mr. Obama's election. Delury believes that for many in China, the U.S. election "was actually a real testament to the power and unpredictability of American democracy."

Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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