CBS’s Couric: Obama Calls on China to ‘Tear Down That Firewall’

Katie Couric, CBS At the top of Monday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric teased a story on the President’s trip to China by casting him as Reaganesque: “Mr. Hu, tear down that firewall. President Obama challenges China’s government to allow unfettered access to the internet.”

Couric introduced the segment that followed by continuing to play up the idea that Obama took a hard line on Chinese censorship: “In China today, he challenged leaders of the communist government to give people greater access to the internet.” Correspondent Chip Reid reported that the President’s actual statement on the matter was hardly so dramatic: “It’s one of the touchiest topics in China and the President’s long answer took on the tone of a polite lecture.”

A clip was played of Obama declaring: “I have always been a strong supporter of open internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship....I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me. I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger...” Reid described those comments as a “rebuke” that “was aimed at China’s leaders.” However, He went on to admit: “...if they were watching it on TV, most Chinese were not, because the government allowed it to run on only one local channel in Shanghai. In the rest of China, they aired a soap opera.”

Reid noted: “...there did appear to be a crack in the great firewall. A CBS News analysis shows Mr. Obama’s comments were posted in full on government web sites available to more than 300 million Chinese with access to the internet. If that’s a moral victory for the President, he’ll probably want to savor it, because otherwise this visit to China is expected to bring more disappointment than success.”

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
6:30PM TEASE:

KATIE COURIC: Also tonight, Mr. Hu, tear down that firewall. President Obama challenges China’s government to allow unfettered access to the internet.

6:37PM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: Now to President Obama’s trip to Asia. In China today, he challenged leaders of the communist government to give people greater access to the internet. China is the most important stop on a tour that started in Japan and Singapore and will end in South Korea on Thursday. Our chief White House correspondent Chip Reid is traveling with the President.

CHIP REID: At a town hall with students in Shanghai, the President was asked about what critics call the great firewall The Chinese government’s tight grip on the internet, which includes blocking access to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

BARACK OBAMA: I have always been a strong supporter of open internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship.

REID: It’s one of the touchiest topics in China and the President’s long answer took on the tone of a polite lecture.

OBAMA: I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me. I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader, because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear.

REID: The White House said the rebuke was aimed at China’s leaders. But if they were watching it on TV, most Chinese were not, because the government allowed it to run on only one local channel in Shanghai. In the rest of China, they aired a soap opera. But there did appear to be a crack in the great firewall. A CBS News analysis shows Mr. Obama’s comments were posted in full on government web sites available to more than 300 million Chinese with access to the internet. If that’s a moral victory for the President, he’ll probably want to savor it, because otherwise this visit to China is expected to bring more disappointment than success.

OBAMA: As you know, this is my first visit to China.

REID: The President says a top goal in coming here is to create jobs for Americans by convincing President Hu Jintao to open China’s markets to more U.S. goods, but China expert Peter Navarro says China has the Obama administration over a barrel because of the nearly one trillion dollars China holds in U.S. debt.

PETER NAVARRO [BUSINESS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE]: The problem in the White House is that they want China’s money more to finance the U.S. budget deficits in the short term than they want China to reform its trade policy.

REID: Later today, the President will meet with Chinese president Hu Jintao for about two hours. The economy is at the top of the agenda, but no major breakthroughs are expected. Resorting to the language of diplomacy, White House officials say they are laying the foundation for future progress. Katie.

COURIC: Chip Reid reporting from Beijing, thank you, Chip.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC