How Chinese and Cuban State Media Covered Obama’s Second Inauguration

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Beijing’s "People’s Daily" highlights failed promises and the U.S. role in Asian territorial disputes, while major North Korean media didn't cover the inauguration.

HONG KONG – Barack Obama might have drawn applause for his second inauguration speech as U.S. president in other countries, but skepticism still reigns in such Communist countries as rising super-power China and Cuba, where state-backed newspapers ran editorials questioning whether he could fulfill his pledges and discussed his policies towards their countries.

The People’s Daily, China’s state-owned newspaper, ran a short article on its front page, which began by highlighting how a smaller crowd converged to attend Obama’s swearing-in ceremony – a sign of what the article described as “the American public becoming more pragmatic in their expectations” of the new administration.

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It then highlighted how Obama has not fulfilled the pledges he made four years ago about reducing bickering in Congress, closing the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, revamping immigration legislation and reinvigorating the U.S. economy – before citing NBC and Wall Street Journal survey figures about growing discontent with his policies.

The front-page report, which came without a photograph and took up less space than a story on reduced credit-card handling fees, was then followed by a longer piece titled “Obama’s second term paved with thorns.” A significant part of it was dedicated to the U.S. president’s foreign policies, as it outlined Washington’s setbacks in Syria and Iraq, as well as its growing schisms with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The piece also charged Obama’s intervention in the Sino-Japanese territorial disputes as causing rather than reducing diplomatic problems.

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The official tone contrasted somewhat with publications such as the Southern Metropolis Daily, the Guangzhou newspaper well known for its more progressive social views. The newspaper ran an article on Wednesday with a photo of Obama and his wife, Michelle, dancing at the inauguration ball, and a headline of “Obama: If Only the Few Live Well, the Country Will Not Succeed” – a line that some took as a comment on the social inequality in China today. The newspaper is a sister publication of Southern Weekend, where journalists went on strike earlier this month to protest against government censors.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s Granma newspaper ran an opinion piece on Tuesday entitled “Obama: a new beginning or raining on the soaked?” that cited what it described as commentators' views of the ceremony as a celebration designed to please the Hispanic electorate, with Sonia Sotomayor presiding over Joe Biden’s swearing-in and a sermon including a Spanish blessing.

The piece then targeted Obama’s stance about supporting democracies worldwide, with the writer saying how a “translation of [Obama’s remarks] would be to ‘continue killing people in the name of democracy.' Maybe not with troops on the ground, but with more sophisticated methods, such as drones."

The editorial concluded: “We could give him the benefit of the doubt, but it is likely that over the next four years, we will be alone and soaked in the rain.”

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency and the country’s state daily, Rodong Sinmun, did not carry reports of Obama’s inauguration, nor did Iran’s national Fars News Agency.