U.S. election fascinates Chinese; some envy voters

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Amateur translator Guo Xiaohui, who has produced Chinese captions of this year’s presidential and vice presidential debates, said an unfiltered look at American politics may gradually influence the thinking of people living with censorship. He also said it shows not everything in the U.S. system is positive.

“The two sides are very confrontational and uncompromising,” he said. “It would be better off if they can soften a bit, like the Chinese do.”

Others see the U.S. system as clearly superior.

“I admire the voting rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. I pay attention to the fairness and seriousness in the election procedure,” said Li Youli, a retired manager in a commerce regulatory agency in Beijing who learned about U.S. elections through an English language class.

China’s political system is so backward that it should implement one thing first: to unconditionally ensure the basic political right for citizens in a republic: the voting rights,” he said.

Admiration for the U.S. political system does not necessarily extend to the U.S. itself. U.S.-China relations have been buffeted by tiffs over trade, nuclear proliferation and global hotspots like Syria and Iran. Romney has promised to label China a currency manipulator if elected, a step that could lead to a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Many Chinese resent what they see as scolding by U.S. presidents, politicians and media about China’s human rights lapses and its authoritarian system.

A Pew Global Attitudes Project survey released last month found that nearly half of Chinese have a negative view of the United States. Still, the survey registered a small increase among Chinese who like American democracy, up to 52 percent, from 48 percent in 2007. More dramatic was a decrease in Chinese rejecting American democracy, down to 29 percent from 36 percent in 2007.

Xu Chunliu, a content editor for the microblogging site Tencent Weibo, said he has observed little criticism of the U.S. election system among Chinese web users.

“I don’t think Chinese people are holding their own political system in such high esteem that they feel they can criticize others,” said Xu.

He added that even being able to have conversations about voting and democracy is a positive step.

“From the Taiwan election to the U.S. election, the Chinese are always thinking and debating among themselves,” Xu said. “I think China is developing into a more normal country.”

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