The first U.S. presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump had over 80 million people tune in to watch in the United States. Over the last month, tens of millions more around the world followed the three presidential debates (September 26, October 9, and October 19) and the vice presidential debate (October 4). Though most of the debate time was spent with candidates arguing about the other’s scandals, rising powers have been watching to see whether Asia, Eurasia, and South America found their way onto the agenda. Two of our previous Policy Alerts covered how rising powers witnessed the Democratic and Republican conventions. In this Policy Alert, we explore commentary from China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the U.S. presidential debates as the November 8 election date approaches.
China found itself as the focus of discussion at several of the debates. For example, China Daily reported the second debate saw Clinton accuse Beijing of orchestrating an “illegal dumping” of cheap steel in the United States and that “Trump is buying it to build things.” Being the center of debate is not a position that many commentators in China appreciated.
- Pushing back against claims by Trump and Clinton that China was manipulating its currency, China Daily ran an entire story quoting a “top U.S. economist” who disagreed with that view.
- Global Times argued Trump’s “particularly arrogant” comments about China has “spread the mentality that the U.S. has suffered losses from its relations with China,” a view that “poses potential threats to global stability.”
- China Daily noted that neither of the vice presidential candidates – Senator Tim Kaine nor Governor Mike Pence – took “radical positions regarding China” when they were governors or congressmen, but they have shifted their views once they joined their respective tickets.
- After the third debate, China Daily’s reporting pushed back on Clinton’s criticisms of women’s rights in China and accusation of dumping cheap steel on the market.
- One light-hearted way some Chinese netizens (an avid internet user) responded to criticisms of their country was by posting joking images of the town hall debate on China’s social media platforms like Weibo making it appear Clinton and Trump were engaged in a musical duet.
From July 25-28 in Philadelphia, the Democratic National Committee held its convention to nominate Hillary Clinton as their party’s candidate for president. One week after the Republican Convention, rising powers tuned in to watch how the other major U.S. political party responded and outlined its policy platform. China remained largely skeptical of Clinton’s campaign. Observers in Brazil, India, Japan, and South Korea applauded her nomination, but worried about her recent shift toward free trade protectionism. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the DNC Convention and the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Our previous Policy Alert covered the Republican Convention.
As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s “pivot to Asia” strategy incensed China as a means to contain the country. Her prioritization on human rights – especially gender equality – and her more hawkish views on the South China Sea have left Chinese leaders uneasy about her candidacy. Tao Xie, professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, suspected “many Chinese have a very unfavorable view of her.” One online poll conducted in March 2016 by Global Times showed a preference for Trump over Clinton with 54 percent in support of the GOP candidate.
Given this view of Clinton, several China media voices and commentators explored her candidacy and the prospects for her campaign in the general election.
- The hacking of thousands of emails from the servers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) – showing the preferences of ostensibly neutral staffers for Clinton as the nominee – and their leak just before the convention “ruins U.S. democracy myths,” according to Global Times. The paper also said the “scandal is devastating enough to bury Clinton’s presidential dream and political career,” though it expected less than severe actual consequences.
- In a 2013 report, Global Times declared Hillary Clinton the “most hated” American political figure in China dating back to her 1995 speech on women’s rights as human rights at the World Conference on Women in Beijing.
- In contrast, Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University and adviser to the Chinese cabinet, insisted Chinese leaders would still prefer Clinton in the White House to a “volatile” Trump. “The worst situation is instability,” he argued, especially as China’s economy – heavily linked to the United States – continues its slow growth rates.
- Xinhua writer Zhu Lei saw the imprint of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders — the runner-up in the primary — on the Democratic Party’s policy platform, which was described by party officials as “the most progressive” in history.
- Chen Weilhua, reporter for China Daily, highlighted thousands of Sanders and Green Party supporters who protested at the Democratic Convention against Clinton’s nomination. Likewise, Qiu Zhibo, consultant at the UN and Global Times columnist, questioned whether “disappointed Bernie supporters” will vote for either Clinton or Trump.
From July 18-21 in Cleveland, the Republican National Committee held its convention to nominate Donald Trump as their party’s candidate for president. With the U.S election season now in full swing, rising powers are closely watching to see how the Trump campaign’s foreign and economic policies might shape the future direction of the United States. While some in China have welcomed his willingness to disengage America from the Indo-Pacific, others in India, Japan, Brazil, and South Korea are anxious to reevaluate the fundamentals of their relationships with Washington. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea on the RNC Convention and the prospects of a Trump presidency. In the next Policy Alert, we will cover reactions to the Democratic Party’ convention in Philadelphia.