By Lucy Hornby
BEIJING, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Chinese state media urged new U.S. President Barack Obama not to ignore the “hard-earned progress” in ties made by George W. Bush, even as websites censored inauguration speech references to communism and dissent.
The China Daily praised Bush for laying “a decent foundation for one of the world’s most influential relationships”, between the United States and China, which it described as a fine bequest.
“After decades of dramatic ups and downs, the once volatile relations are just beginning to show signs of stabilising,” it said in an editorial.
“To many, former President Bush’s eight years at the helm of U.S. foreign policies were full of disappointments. The yet-to-be-justified war on Iraq, for one, proves an outstanding discredit to his country and himself. President Obama vowed to put an end to that. Which is correct, and overdue.
“Yet let us be fair and honest — the Bush years were not devoid of merits. Anchoring relationship between the world’s single superpower and the largest developing country is no easy job. But the Bush administration managed it.”
The Strategic Economic Dialogue had turned out to be an “invaluable platform” for high-level communication. “Now, people wonder if its fifth session in Beijing early last month was its last.”
Websites in China censored references to communism and dissent in Obama’s inauguration speech and state television abruptly turned away from the broadcast once communism was mentioned.
Communist China, which has shut more than 200 websites in recent days for “vulgar” content, is seen by many to be trying to stifle dissent in a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.
“Recall that earlier generations faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions,” Obama said in his 18-minute inauguration address on Tuesday.
He later added:
“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.”
After the Chinese translator said the word "communism", the China Central Television feed went silent, then shifted to an anchor who stumbled through a question to an analyst about what type of difficulties Obama faced with the U.S. economy, according to an extract uploaded to Youtube.com (here).
The analyst looked equally off-guard.
Another widely viewed portal, Netease (here ), cut the communism paragraph in its entirety, prompting one Canada-based Chinese to post it in English in the comments section, with the remark "Hahaha, communism and fascism".
The paragraph mentioning dissent was included in the Netease version, and was widely praised by Chinese posting comments.
The full speech appeared on the website of Phoenix TV (phoenix TV: here 1/0121_5433_978564.shtml), a Hong Kong-based station that is branding its website as a source for news, and in English on the China Daily state newspaper website. (Additional reporting by Ian Ransom and Nick Macfie; Editing by David Fox)