News of President Obama’s reelection reverberated throughout China Wednesday, reportedly garnering more than 6.7 million posts on the microblogging site Sina Weibo and becoming its third most popular topic.
Western media was quick to describe news of the Obama victory as a celebratory affair here, with publications like The Washington Post running the headline ‘China, worried by US campaign rhetoric, relieved at election’s end’, and CNN posting the headline ‘After Obama win, hope and relief in China’.
Obama promises consistency, particularly as Mitt Romney issued increasingly heated criticisms of China in the final stretch of his campaign. As China braces for its once-in-a-decade leadership transition, not having to worry about the first 100 days of a new US administration is, indeed, a relief in government and business circles here, which are focused on discerning what the next year (or 10) will bring.
However, to suggest China is waving the star spangled banner on the heels of Obama’s victory would be an overstatement.
Following results of the election, the official state news agency Xinhua published two commentaries in English, obviously meant for an international audience, calling for better ties between Washington and Beijing. The first concluded that “China and the U.S. have to work together for the sake of future world stability,” while the second made a much more pointed critique of the past four years: “On his watch, the US government has sold a huge amount of arms to Taiwan, received the Dalai Lama at the White House, frequently stirred up trade disputes and currency spats with China, and blatantly meddled in China’s territorial rows with its neighbors, each of which has effectively whittled down the two nations’ mutual trust.”
The incumbent offers China some level of predictably, particularly as the next year will be spent focusing on the policies of the country’s new leaders. But during this year, scrutiny of Obama’s past policies, like his “pivot towards Asia,” will likely intensify, particularly once the next government is installed.
Interestingly there has been limited analysis and commentary on the Obama victory in Chinese media. The vast majority has remained descriptive — reporting only what transpired during the vote — suggesting the government is keeping its options open on whether a second Obama term portends well or ill for China.
In the meantime, with the election over and the end to political debates and stump speeches, Chinese business leaders, government officials and average citizens will be looking for meaningful gestures from the White House that will cool tensions and increase cooperation between the countries. For the next week, however, all focus will be on the transition of power now taking place here.
Weber Shandwick is closely monitoring the CPC in Beijing to provide updates and analysis on this and other developments that could impact business in China.