The White House had hoped the Monday morning forum would be President Obama’s one big chance to try and communicate directly with young Chinese people.
But as of this morning, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, there was still no agreement with the Chinese authorities on who would be present or how the question-and-answer session would work. And, most importantly for the White House, there was also no decision on whether it would be broadcast live on television and on the internet.
There is some precedent here. When Bill Clinton visited China in 1998, he ended up appearing live on radio and television on four separate occasions, including a discussion with then Chinese president Jiang Zemin when they debated religion, human rights and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest movement. An FT report on the Clinton visit noted that by allowing the live broadcasts, “the Chinese government offered tantalising glimpses of prospects of greater political openness”.