US President Barack Obama sought to distance himself from the turbulent Bush era as he looked set to hit the ground running yesterday and act early on a promise to wield US power with “humility and restraint.”
Fresh from his buoyant inauguration, Obama will begin to flesh out his vision of better ties with Muslim countries and of alliance-building to promote peace and security, including by eliminating perceived nuclear threats.
Although his inaugural speech on Tuesday largely sounded conciliatory, Obama also struck tougher notes when he warned that the US would not waver in defense of its “way of life” and would defeat those who use “terror.”
The Obama administration faces daunting challenges to extract US troops from Iraq, forge peace in both the Middle East and Afghanistan, stabilize nuclear-armed US ally Pakistan, and roll back Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Security in post Sept. 11, 2001, US, he pledged, will not come at the expense of abandoning the US ideals of liberty and the rule of law, which critics worldwide say former president George W. Bush’s administration trampled on in conducting its “war on terror.”
In a jab at the unilateral military force that Bush used to invade Iraq in 2003, Obama said previous US generations had defeated fascism and communism with “sturdy alliances and enduring convictions” besides resorting to armed intervention.
These generations knew that US “security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint,” Obama said, alluding to the accusations of arrogance cast at the Bush administration.
China offered a nervous welcome to Obama yesterday, expressing concern over the direction he may take bilateral ties while paying tribute to Bush.
The English-language China Daily published an editorial calling for Obama to follow the lead of his predecessor.
“Given the popular American eagerness for a break from the Bush years, many wonder, or worry to be precise, whether the new president would ignore the hard-earned progress in bilateral ties,” the editorial said.
The most important legacy of Bush’s eight years in power were improved China-US relations, the editorial said.
The defense ministry on Tuesday also warned Obama against continuing military support for Taiwan.
Obama’s speech left Chinese media scrambling yesterday, with many attempting to censor his references to communism and dissent.
However the attempts appeared to backfire after their omission in Chinese translations drew even more attention to the words on Internet forums.
State broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the speech live, but when the translator said communism, the channel cut to an awkwardly smiling news anchor, Beijing-based lawyer Xu Zhiyong wrote on his blog.
China’s two biggest Internet portals Sina and Sohu omitted the word communism from the translations of the speech on their Web sites and cut the line about dissent entirely.
English versions appeared in some Chinese media intact.