- By Isaac Stone Fish
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.
The sigh of relief from China was almost audible. Now Chinese officials "don’t need to deal with unnecessary disputes over issues like currency and trade while dealing with its own political transition," said Vincent Ni, a correspondent for the Chinese business magazine Caixin, who’s been covering the U.S. election. The state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua reported optimistically that "Obama has a unique opportunity to make an even more far-reaching impact on China-U.S. ties, if he has the political courage and wisdom to cast away the uncalled-for worries over China’s rise."
The Chinese reaction hasn’t been all positive. Woeser, a prominent half-Tibetan half-Chinese dissident blogger, wrote on Twitter (blocked but accessible in China) last night that although she hadn’t supported Romney, she was disappointed with Obama’s victory. I asked why, and she pointed to an essay she had written in response to his 2009 trip to Beijing, where although she was happy that Obama had mentioned the importance of basic human rights to "the head of the world’s largest totalitarian system," he didn’t come out and explain what those rights were. Writing for FP in mid-October, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University Shen Dingli said that Sino-U.S. relations tend to be better under Republican presidents. "The logic is simple: no delusion from the outset, fewer human rights distractions, frank talk, and concrete cooperation whenever possible," he wrote.
But the overwhelming response for Chinese netizens seems to be a sense of triumph, even vicarious glee at Americans’ ability to choose.
This being the Chinese internet, things got a little weird. "It’s same reason porn films are popular," the Wall Street Journal quoted a Chinese internet user as saying. "You want to do it but you can’t so you content yourself with watching others." The British condom manufacturer Durex wrote a post on its Sina Weibo account that seemed to capture the spirit of Chinese views-and indeed, was forwarded an astonishing 43,000 times. It features the photo of an enthusiastic Michelle Obama with her hands out wide, above a photo of a tense Ann Romney holding up her thumb and her index finger. The caption reads: "The difference between Obama and Romney."