US Presidential Election and Views from Asian Powers (Part II)
Today’s post is the RPI’s second installment of a three-part series on the US presidential election. We examine reactions in India, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia to the foreign policy issues addressed in the televised debates between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Across the spectrum of India’s media landscape, commentary took note of the striking similarity between Obama and Romney on foreign policy.
- This convergence shows that “the US is heading into a period of remarkable foreign policy consensus,” said a Hindustan Times editorial, attributing it to America’s “weariness following two wars, one of the country’s worst recessions and the end of the Al Qaeda threat.”
- Some think this can be a positive development for India. “The good news for both sides is that US-India ties have transcended electoral politics,” wrote Chidanand Rajghatta, a Times of Indiacolumnist. Moreover, the lack of any mention of India in the debate just shows that America is “absorbed in managing its own decline,” leaving India in the “happy position of being geopolitically close to the US and yet able to maintain strategic autonomy.”
As was noted in RPI Policy Alert #37, Chinese views on the US election continue to criticize the anti-Chinese rhetoric by both candidates.
- Coverage in the state-run press, as well as Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, were not happy with Romney’s calling China a “currency manipulator” during the second debate.
- While the third debate was noted for the more toned-down language on China, as “both candidates framed China as a partner for the first time,” a Xinhua analysis nevertheless pointed out that “a few relieving words are quickly overshadowed by traditional campaign tricks of scapegoating.”
Campaign rhetoric aside, however, the sluggish US economy, Sino-US trade competition, and America’s strategic mistrust of China are three larger factors indicating that “China-US relations will unlikely turn rosy after the election,” analyzed a People’s Daily editorial.
Japanese analysis of the debates looked for signs of the candidates’ positions on security issues in Asia.
- The Daily Yomiuri noted that “[Romney] displayed a harder line toward Beijing than Obama did,” but that Obama also “reconfirmed that the US would attach importance to Asia.” Both positions were “welcome news to Japan,” said the paper’s editorial.
- On the other hand, The Mainichi lamented what it considered an excessive focus on Middle East affairs in the third debate, attributing this to the pro-Israeli lobby in the US. “The two presidential candidates did not discuss intensifying Japan-China friction or North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Although the debate is for U.S. voters…it is regrettable that the debate failed to dispel concerns that U.S. diplomacy focuses excessively on the Middle East.”
Political commentary these days is focusing on South Korea’s own upcoming presidential election in December.
- As the Dong-a Ilbo pointed out, “the combination between the new South Korean and US administrations will likely be crucial.” In its analysis of the possible outcomes, the paper argued that “the combination [of] the Republican Party and South Korea`s opposition has the biggest potential for friction, while the Democratic Party-South Korean ruling party combination will not likely lead to tension.”
More generally, an op-ed in the Korea Joong-Ang Daily lamented the lack of policy contestation in the Korean election. “American voters are better off than Korean voters since the two parties have clearly distinctive policy directions and they can vote for what they believe in.”
Although Obama and Romney debated their views on Russia, this did not generate much commentary in the Russian media. Instead, Russia Times as well as Voice of Russia devoted significant coverage to the debate between candidates of the Constitution, Green, Justice and Libertarian parties, with theRussia Times commenting that “there’s a blackout by the mainstream media and US political elite on coverage of third parties.”