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US Disappointed by Chinese Scrapping of Online Q&A Session

FILE - A man surfs Internet on his laptop computer at a Starbucks cafe in Beijing, Feb. 16, 2015.

The U.S. State Department voiced disappointment Tuesday with China's decision to scrub an online question-and-answer session that briefly allowed the Chinese public to ask U.S. officials about daily life in contemporary America.

State Department spokesman Ory Abramowicz said the U.S. Embassy in Beijing was invited by the Chinese question-and-answer website Zhihu to participate in the session. He also said U.S. involvement was in keeping with the embassy's role in representing America to China through public diplomacy.

A version of the site cached by Google showed more than 40 questions on topics ranging from how to buy cheap tickets for New York theater performances to questions about California beach culture and licensing for food trucks operating in large U.S. cities. At least four U.S. diplomats and two academics provided responses.

The cached site showed the page was viewed more than 1 million times and followed by nearly 27,000 people before it vanished last week.

The Wall Street Journal cited a separate story linked to the Communist Youth League in which comments from Chinese internet users accused U.S. diplomats of waging a "public opinion war." The Journal said the Zhihu site disappeared shortly after the Communist Youth League critique appeared.