Virtually every aspect of the event was staged, and it was unclear how many Chinese citizens saw the hour-long exchange, which was not broadcast on national television. One of the most provocative statements Obama made — about the importance of opening up the Internet — was posted on Chinese news sites at first, but then was deleted.
Obama’s audience, selected and coached beforehand by university officials, came from eight different Shanghai universities. A small, random sampling suggested the vast majority were members of the Communist Party. Many of the eight questions put to the president by students echoed Chinese government talking points.