President Obama held many town hall meetings during the election and several more times since taking office. He brought this platform of expression to China and it was not as spontaneous as the US versions. The audience – 400-500 college students – were carefully selected (I am sure there is a selection process for the US events) and according to the Washington Post, they were required to attend a “lecture and a meeting” beforehand (who has time for that in the US?). The US staff wanted the event to be broadcast live on TV and also stream live online. The White House provided its own live video feed online. A local TV station in Shanghai where the town hall meeting was held did the live broadcast but no live streaming on any websites in China. The broadcast signal from an English TV channel in Hong Kong was intercepted. Obama’s response to a question about the Great Firewall appeared online for a short time and then it was deleted from most websites.

In my opinion, I think it would have been better to let everyone in China to watch, hear, and read about this historic event – the first town hall meeting by a US President in China – in its entirety. Encourage people to live blogging and let them debate over Obama’s opening remarks and his responses to the questions from the students and submitted through the Internet. Not everyone would agree with Obama and there are probably many highly patriotic folks that are ready to pick on his criticism of China. On top of that, add some flavor from the 50 Cent Army, most of the discussions can be steered favorable for the Chinese authorities. But I guess the risk is too high. In comparison, Ghana put out a much better welcoming party for Obama.

For what is worth, here’s the video and transcript in its full glory:

Vodpod videos no longer available.