“Obama’s mouth won”

Obama won the debate, and both Obama and Romney think China should be a partner of the US. That in a nutshell is the verdict of the Changjiang Times (长江商报) from Hubei province today on Monday’s third and final debate of the Big American Election (美国大选), as US presidential elections are commonly referred to in China’s newspapers. In a full page spread, the Changjiang Times has a neat summary of the essential information: Who won the debate and what was said about China. A handful of papers in China today carried similar reports of the debate on their front pages.

Changjiang Times sums up the candidates’ performance as follows: Obama spoke confidently and frankly due to his wide experience of foreign policy, while Romney appeared passive and spoke like a rookie due to his inexperience in foreign policy. The newspaper then briefly recaps the main talking points of the debate: Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear ambitions — all the while hinting that Romney often shifted from his original opinions or stuck close to Obama’s positions.

Most of the newspaper’s coverage, however, is focused on what was said about China, and it reports that there wasn’t much difference of opinion between the two candidates on this issue. The newspaper emphasizes that both candidates agreed that China should be a partner of the US, but both also agreed that China should be attacked (攻击) for its exchange rate policy, for stealing US intellectual property, and for causing a trade imbalance in Sino-US trade, all to show China how to be a responsible international power. If China acts responsibly, Obama said, it could be an ally of the US; while Romney added he has no desire for a trade war or a real war with China. Ultimately no matter who wins, Changjiang Times concludes, there might be some friction on trade and economic issues but the Sino-US relationship will in general remain unchanged.

In another article on its special focus page, Changjiang Times makes this startling point: “The most prominent aspect of the third presidential debate was the recurring appearance of Chinese issues.” The paper asks “In this election, why do they want to keep on talking about China? What is really behind this?” To get some answers, Changjiang Times turns to an expert, Zhang Guoqing (张国庆), who focuses on US issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (中国社会科学院美国所学者). According to Zhang its all about the economy (but really its all about US politicians that are becoming weak):

The US became increasingly focused on China after the financial crisis erupted in 2008 because its economy and internal troubles put it on a downward slide, while China’s economy went from strength to strength, and China is now the US’s biggest creditor. All this has made the psychological state of US politicians very weak; they lost confidence; became hostile; and the China issue became mainstream. 

Next he was asked why Obama has recently repeatedly used a tough and rude attitude towards Chinese exports to the US and Chinese companies. What is the real reason for his “unreasonable” (蛮横) attitude?

Besides psychological and strategic issues, its all due to the fact that Chinese companies are now competing with US companies in high-end technology industries, and this has made the US very worried.

Mr Zhang also brings up the issues of the Chinese companies that have recently been facing “groundless accusations” in the US (i.e. Huawei and ZTE), and a lawsuit that some Chinese companies have filed against Obama personally. On this Mr Zhang’s views are forthright:

This litigation may be more about the process than the result,  but they must do it. Chinese companies should file a lawsuit with confidence in the US, they should be pioneers in protecting their own interests

Lastly, Mr Zhang was asked his views on Romney’s statement that he would classify China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office. Is this just hot air, or will he really carry out the threat? Zhang says that it’s all posturing, and real policy will emerge only after the election is finished.

Here’s how other front pages in China today reflected on the third debate (i.e. the third ‘show’):

Links and sources

Changjiang Times: 奥巴马赢得“最后一辩” 双方同视中国为“伙伴”
Changjiang Times: 美国选总统关中国什么事?

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