Obama Arrives in Shanghai; Talks with Students in Town Hall Meeting (Updated with Video)

President Obama arrived in Shanghai earlier and has planned a town hall meeting with students. The White House has set up a bilingual interface to stream the event and will also stream it on the White House website and via Facebook, and has also provided embed code for live streaming (scroll down to watch it live). The Guangzhou Consulate will also be tweeting the meeting at this handle: @GZPAS and Chinese Twitterers are posting about Obama’s visit with the hashtag #obamacn.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Obama arrived here today as part of his weeklong swing through Asia, the heart of which will be nearly three days in China. Later today in Shanghai, China’s commercial capital, Obama is scheduled to take questions from students in a town-hall-style meeting that is expected to be broadcast live in the city and on the White House website.

The state-run International Herald Leader newspaper teamed up with online discussion forum Tianya Club and collected more than 3,000 questions for the president from netizens over the last month. The submissions touched upon such diverse topics as America’s ability to repay its debt and the president’s love for basketball.

At the same time, some Chinese bloggers are waging a “Tear Down This Firewall” campaign, hoping that the president will address the issue of freedom of speech on the Internet.


Read Twitterers’ comments
about Obama’s visit via CDT.

Time Magazine reports on the Obama Administration’s efforts to bypass Internet censorship and directly communicate with Chinese netizens:

After a temporary easing up during the 2008 Olympics, China’s system of online controls has grown noticeably stricter in recent months, and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are now blocked. The decision to block Twitter followed the Iranian use of the social networking site in June, says Xiao Qiang, the director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. Websites discussing sensitive topics like Tibet, the Tiananmen crackdown and the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement are also routinely blocked, and in the Xinjiang region, which experienced bloody ethnic riots in July, people are barred from public Internet access and international phone service. The Chinese censorship regime tends to allow some dissident information online, as long as it remains marginal. “It’s not about absolute control,” Xiao says. “It’s about effective control.”

Online outreach by the Obama Administration is designed in part to bypass such censorship, and increase direct communications with the Chinese people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for one, has been particularly aggressive on the issue since taking office. During her first trip to Asia, she participated in a webchat interview on climate change in Beijing, hosted by the China Daily, during which she responded to questions submitted online. According to the state-owned newspaper, the chat drew more than 10.2 million page views, 50,000 comments and 7,000 questions.

On Huffington Post, Elizabeth Lynch writes about the expectations young Chinese in Shanghai have for Obama’s visit.

Footage of Obama arriving in Shanghai via AP:

And Getty Images has over 1000 images of Obama’s trip so far.

During the town hall meeting (12:45 pm local Shanghai time), it can be seen live below. (CDT has replaced the live feed below with video of the meeting provided by the White House; the full transcript is available here):

Update: Read the first reviews of Obama’s town hall meeting, from the New York Times and AP, and a live blogging stream of the talk via the Wall Street Journal.

Chinese Twitterers also followed the talk and tweeted their thoughts. Many responded to the questioner who asked about whether Obama had heard of the “firewall” and if he thinks Chinese citizens should be allowed to use Twitter. Selected tweets translated by CDT:

@yxtt Thank goodness the question that ought to be asked was asked, and it did not get ‘edited out” with Chinese characteristics. Haha [Referring the question about the Great Firewall and Twitter]
还好该出来的问题出来了,没有被“中国特色”掉,O(∩_∩)O哈哈~

@philfenghan I will not forget this morning, I heard, on my shaky Internet connection, a question about our own freedom which only a foreign leader can discuss.
我不会忘记这个中午,断断续续听着一个他国领导人才会讲到的关于我们自己切身自由的问题。 #obama

@hecaitou Netease is really crazy: [referring to Chinese Internet portal Netease which immediately published the full text, from Xinhua's transcription, of the question about the firewall on their front page.]
网易当真很疯狂:http://tinyurl.com/ygqr34v

@Tie163: Netease, please accept my homage to you, even if this report will be deleted afterwards. http://is.gd/4VZDQ
网易山西临汾网友 网易,请允许我向你鞠下一躬,哪怕这篇报道随后消失。【新闻】奥巴马回答网友提问防火墙和TWITTER

@Aether: The Netease article about the Great Firewall has already been taken off the front page.
网易关于防火墙的文章已经从新闻首页拿掉。

@hecaitou: The Netease page about Obama answering the question of Great Firewall of Twitter survived twenty seven minutes.
网易关于奥巴马回答防火墙和Twitter的页面,存活了27分钟。

@wenyunchao All four major Internet news portals reported Obama’s answer to the Great Firewall and Twitter question. Here are screenshots. http://trunc.it/3anu5 http://trunc.it/3b1e6 http://trunc.it/3cn2v http://trunc.it/3ccft
“奥巴马回答网友提问防火墙和TWITTER”四大门户网站截图:http://trunc.it/3anu5 http://trunc.it/3b1e6 http://trunc.it/3cn2v http://trunc.it/3ccft

@fulue A Town Hall Meeting between the President of the United States of America and the fifty cent party of People’s Republic of China
一次美利坚合众国总统与中华人民共和国五毛的Town Hall Meeting。

@mozhixu: Chinese university students are all in the “future” class. Some are future overseas students in America; some are future house slaves; today those at the town hall meeting are future officials.
中国大学都是预科班, 有的是留美预科, 有的是房奴预科,在现场的这些是公务员预科的……

@secretaryzhang: The first female student Chen Xi who asked a question to Obama is the Deputy Director of Research Office of Communist Youth League of Fudan University. The second male “student” who asked a question to Obama: Huang Lihe, the Communist Youth League Secretary of Foreign Language School of Tongji University.
第一个向奥巴马提问的女生程熙是共青团复旦大学委员会研究室常务副主任. 第二位实名向奥巴马提问的男“学生”身份:黄立鹤,同济大学外国语学院团委书记.