Oh well, it was for the inauguration of the hugely popular new US President Barack Obama. So let's forgive and forget. When Chinese leaders did something similar for the Beijing Olympics, there was criticism from around the world. But there are currently no bounds, it seems, to the adoration generated by the new president. Millions who gathered at the US National Mall or watched on television were treated to a live performance by a classical quartet - including violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma - for Tuesday's inaugural ceremony. It now turns out that what they actually heard was a recording. Broadcaster NBC did not bother to tell anyone about it. It was not exactly lip-synching, as it was with the little girl who mouthed the anthem Ode to the Motherland at the Olympics opening. And the circumstances were different: they did not involve the replacement of a child deemed not pretty enough. There were similarities, however. The quartet was playing live, but inaugural organisers were worried their music would not carry well because of the cold weather, so they switched to a recording. Piano strings might break, they said, and instruments could crack. Musical intonations could be distorted. Last year, Olympics music director Chen Qigang said the decision to put a more photogenic little girl on stage was made in the national interest. This had a harsh ring to it. The decision was harshly criticised, and deservedly so. It sent a wrong message to young people that today's China values looks over ability. Now, Perlman has made a similar national-interest argument in the case of the inauguration, saying: 'This occasion's got to be perfect. You can't have any slip-ups.' Put this way, it somehow does not sound as bad. But imagine how the world might have reacted if Beijing had invited Ma to perform live at a national event in the dead of winter. Imagine state-run broadcaster CCTV then switching to a recording in case the weather wreaked havoc with Ma's cello. The world would probably have recoiled in horror and asked: don't the Chinese have any respect for true art and great artists?