China was a whipping boy on the U.S. campaign trail. So now that incumbent Barack Obama is savoring victory, Beijing will be breathing a sigh of relief.
There will be relief that a bitter campaign — where both candidates talked tough on China — is over.
China will be especially glad it doesn’t have Mitt Romney to deal with.
“China is quite happy that Obama won the election because Obama is a known entity,” says political columnist Frank Ching. “It’s better to have the devil you know, than the one you don’t.”
But the whipping boy is also lashing back, taking aim at America’s perceived political flaws and diminished role on the world stage.
The state-run People’s Daily portends dark days ahead for the U.S. president: “As soon as Obama gets re-elected, he will immediately be confronted with the strangling of Washington’s political machine.”
Hu Xijin, editor of the pro-Beijing Global Times, weighs in on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like micro-blogging service, with this double-edged post: “Obama has been re-elected as the American president. Sincere best wishes to him and the U.S… The rapid rise of China and the decline of the U.S. imply a massive risk in international politics.”
And on China’s Netease.com, one Netizen from Jiangsu province writes: “I really like you, Obama! Congratulations! Though I hope that you’ll mind your own business in your next four years, and stop interfering in the political affairs of other countries.”
Non-interference is a non-starter given how interconnected the two countries are.
China is one of America’s largest trading partners. The nations’ two economies are deeply interconnected with Beijing holding more than $1 trillion in U.S. debt and U.S. exports to China on the rise.
While on the campaign trail, Obama has taken action against China — slapping tariffs on China-made tires and solar panels as well as filing a new case with the World Trade Organization against China for unfair auto subsidies.
But such action was taken not to merely score political points. It’s a sign of more “tough on China” policy-making to come.
David Zweig, an associate dean at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says: “Obama is facing a strategic situation which is the rise of China, and that is going to force him to have to respond…That is the strategic reality. China is rising and this will be a challenging relationship.”
And it gets even more complicated.
China is undergoing a leadership transition of its own with the start of the 18th Party Congress on Thursday in Beijing, designed to bring forth a new generation of leaders who will run China for the next 10 years.
The world is waiting to see exactly who will rise to the Politburo Standing Committee, the elite group with the highest concentration of decision-making power.
It’s a November of change for China and the U.S., and even the ardently pro-Beijing editor of the Global Times wants to see a win-win for both.
“I hope that Obama will demonstrate great talent on China issues, encourage China to rise peacefully, and will release the world from the tragedy of great power politics forever,” says Hu.
Hope. With Obama’s re-election, it’s being embraced in China as well.