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Beijing launching a 'Chinese CNN' to burnish image abroad

But winning credibility as an objective news source will be a hurdle, experts say.

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Something was missing from Chinese state television's live coverage of President Obama's inaugural speech two weeks ago. As he recalled how "earlier generations faced down fascism and communism," viewers here were suddenly returned to the studio, where flustered presenters stumbled to fill the unexpected airtime.

As officials plan to launch China's own international TV news channel in the next year or two, burnishing the country's image abroad while challenging CNN, BBC, and other broadcasters, the incident illustrates how hard it will be for Beijing to realize that dream.

"China's image is very important, but the first question is the image of the medium itself," cautions Gong Wenxiang, journalism professor at Peking University. "If the medium lacks credibility, it is unthinkable that it will improve the country's image."

Such reservations do not appear to be restraining official ambitions.

The government is reported to have set aside more than $6 billion to launch the TV station, to nearly double the number of foreign bureaus belonging to the official Xinhua news agency, and to upgrade the ruling Communist party mouthpiece, the People's Daily.

The drive reflects a new burst of enthusiasm in China's long-running but generally unsuccessful effort to present a positive image to the world.

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