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Clinton in China: Lost in Translation

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As the White House sees it, the big payoff in Bill Clinton's trip to China was being able to speak directly to the Chinese people. But while he spoke in English, the masses were listening in Chinese, and the interpretation was not good. Some Chinese academics in the U.S. who listened to the press conference in Beijing say Clinton's polite, subtly worded protest about the loss of life at Tiananmen Square did not come across to ordinary Chinese. Even worse was Clintonĺs centerpiece speech at Peking University, where the State Department interpreter had major difficulties, breaking off sentences to start new ones, leaving some key phrases untranslated. The result was disappointing. The Chinese host of the broadcast criticized the interpreter outright, and a Beijing official later observed to his daughter in the U.S. that Clinton came out sounding like a "stupid man who cannot finish a sentence." The State Department has asked for tapes of the broadcasts so the interpretation can be "checked for quality control."