US election prompts chatter on Chinese social sites

The discussion on Chinese social media predicts little difference between Obama and Romney when it comes to US policies towards China.

The US election has sparked commentary on social media sites around the globe, and China is no exception.

Sina Weibo and other blogging forums are full of opinions on the contest between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. Like Web denizens everywhere, these commenters run the gamut from serious to snarky. chinadialogue reviewed some of the most popular Chinese-language discussion sites and compiled a selection of thought-provoking commentary from around the web.

“The US is a country of consumerism and individualism,” wrote Kevin Jianjun Tu, a senior associate in the Carnegie Energy and Climate Program who works on energy and climate policies in China. “Apart from a few states like California, the public in general is not engaged with climate-related legislation. This is the reason why US politicians don’t need to act on climate change.”

Also read: Climate silence and the US election

Tu also weighed in after watching a debate on energy and climate between two campaign representatives: Joseph Aldy, a Harvard economist and former White House adviser on energy and the environment, and Oren Cass, a lawyer who advises the Romney campaign on domestic policy. “The two candidates have been hijacked to some extent by their own parties,” Tu wrote on Weibo. “It seems to be difficult to launch a nationwide policy on energy and environment in any country.”

Other commenters took a conservative view of the role the US government should take in regulating carbon emissions. “Carbon control policy should follow reform of the electricity market,” wrote Yu Yang, a Weibo user with a PhD civil and environmental engineering from Stanford University. “Federal government should not intervene too much, but show deference to states’ policies.”

“Romney has lost a point on this issue,” countered Youyanghanfeng (“Melodious winter wind") on Weibo. “His statement indicates that he lacks consideration for the future generation. In my opinion, emission reduction and ecological protection is the highest level of politics.”

On Atlanta168, a Chinese-language forum based in the southern US city of Atlanta, a commenter named Old Qian questioned the future of renewable energy development under the current president. “Obama has been emphasising his green economy and clean energy policy, of which solar energy is an important part,” Old Qian wrote. “However, subsidies of such encouraging policies come from taxation, and with such a huge amount of subsidies, the Obama administration can’t afford many projects across the country.”

Given the enormous amount of government investment these projects require, he argued, Obama’s proposals in their current form are neither economically viable nor environmentally sustainable. Clean energy policies are great, he added, but not if they’re only used as political tools: “The insolvency of Solyndra (a government-backed solar company) less than half a year after receiving $500 million from the Obama government is an example.”

“Both candidates have clear plans on economic policy,” wrote Wang Junjie on Weibo. “Obama would sacrifice some interests of the rich to save the country’s credit and his policies on foreign relations, energy, taxation and education seem well-planned. Romney, on the other hand, chose to sacrifice trade between the US and China to gain votes. His hard-line approach gave the appearance of being all talk and no action.”

On the discussion site Huanqiu, Fengguobaihualin ("Wind blowing through the white birch woods") analysed the candidates’ obsession with China in this election cycle. “The reason that China’s rise has been such a prominent theme is that both candidates want to show their abilities by emphasising that the US faces a great threat and they can manage this and overcome it,” he wrote. "Some say that Romney is more hostile to China, as is seen from his speech. However, it should be noted that since the 1980s, the US’s attitude towards China has always been practical, no matter what is said during the campaign. No matter how hostile it may sound in speech, policy seldom goes to extremes.”

Fengguobaihualin added his own predictions: “Thus no matter who is the next president, the general policy towards China will stay the same. As a businessman, Romney is well aware of the importance of the economic relationship between China and the US, so he won’t adopt aggressive policies towards China as long as he thinks that China’s economic development is beneficial to the US. This will win us some space for strategic development. Obama, on the other hand, brought a lot of troubles to China during his last visit to Asia, so he is not as friendly to China as it seems.”