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With roughly four hours to go before the Obama inauguration ceremonies, Beijing is less than enthralled. The reason is visible on the front page of today's Beijing Times, which features a top headline about a train ticket scalping scandal over a photo of police conducting fireworks safety demonstrations at the capital's famous Silk Street Market.
In other words, Spring Festival, the Chinese equivalent of Christmas vacation, has arrived.
What media attention is being paid to the inauguration amidst the Spring Festival brouhaha seems to be focused mostly on eulogizing the Bush presidency. The Beijing Evening News, a popular tabloid (pictured above right), writes that "Bush's conservatism, sincerity and down-to-earth style earn him extra points," while celebrated Phoenix TV reporter and blogger Rose Luqiu recalls the former president's "fondness for China" and gives him credit for helping revive the US-China relationship.
Li Liang, an editor at Southern Weekend who traveled to the US to report on the election last year, is less gung-ho about the Bush administration but worries about the problems the US faces and tells me he's taking a wait-and-see approach with the new president. It's a sentiment echoed in a Beijing Times op-ed that wonders "Will Obama be Blair Redux?," referring to the former British prime minister's rapid fall from grace in the wake of his own celebrated election.
It's not clear whether the inauguration will be broadcast on Chinese television, so I'm off to the Saddle Cantina in eastern Beijing, where there's supposed to be a two-for-one Obamarama party with a special inauguration cocktail—and hopefully a CNN feed.
Check back here later for notes from that event, and possibly some more thoughts from Li Liang.