Chinese Media: U.S. Elections Are ‘Petty Shows’

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 04: Election workers count Fulton County ballots at State Farm Arena on November 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 2020 presidential race between incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is still too close to call with outstanding ballots to count. (Photo by …
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Chinese state media mocked American democracy on Tuesday, dismissing it as a turgid form of entertainment enjoyed by Chinese citizens who “became bored while staying at home most of the year in 2020 due to the [Chinese coronavirus] epidemic,” as the Global Times put it.

“I thought the show was over already. This will be very interesting, does anyone want popcorn?” asked a Chinese social media user quoted by the Global Times.

A hashtag on the heavily censored Chinese platform Weibo for “Trump to launch a massive rally to challenge Biden’s victory” reportedly racked up over 11 million views by Tuesday evening. Weibo does not allow any commentary not approved by the Communist Party, so it is not a legitimate measure of Chinese public opinion.

Another post allegedly anticipated that “Weibo would face huge losses after Trump steps down” because President Donald Trump would no longer be able to provide such entertainment value.

The Global Times quoted “Chinese experts” who used the 2020 election and its aftermath to discredit the entire American model of democracy and assert the superiority of Chinese authoritarianism, leaning rather heavily on an American television show from several years ago:

Chinese experts said Americans or other Westerners might not understand why Chinese people are just curious about but don’t admire US democracy, but instead treat it as a variety show which is much more interesting than House of Cards. In fact, Chinese people are pretty familiar with the US election and most of them can objectively observe and compare it with the Chinese national conditions.

House of Cards is the most famous US TV series viewed in China that has helped many Chinese people learn about how US politicians struggle and vie for power. Now Chinese people might learn that the scriptwriters of this TV series have actually underestimated how much drama really occurs in US politics.

Some experts of US studies said that in House of Cards, Chinese audiences have learned that US politicians have a very vague bottom line. As long as they can make gains, they will betray anyone. In reality, Trump has just proven that there is no bottom line at all, as he empowers his family members in the White House as much as he wants, and uses presidential authority to pardon many people with close connections to him.

“This is why Americans stopped filming House of Cards, Trump is much more interesting than Frank Underwood,” one Chinese Internet user snarked.

Fudan University professor Zhang Weiwei said Trump’s predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush would also be considered “slightly below the bar” by Chinese standards of leadership, while Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research fellow Lu Xiang rated Trump’s performance in office as “lower than the standard of many presidents of underdeveloped countries, which is absurd and unusual.”

The insults extended to Trump’s cabinet and advisers, who were all dismissed as buffoons by the Global Times because they “made ridiculous statements and acted with hostility against China” and “seriously offended Chinese people.” The editorial made a point of dismissing the few Chinese citizens who could be found expressing any admiration for American democracy as lunatics.

Another Global Times editorial on Tuesday used the election, and the U.S. response to the Wuhan coronavirus, to mock the notion of America as a beacon of freedom to the oppressed people of the world:

In a recent podcast, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that “America has always been a beacon” to those “who are oppressed and those living difficult lives around the world for years and years to come.” But what the US has made the world see is the difficult lives the Americans live, and via the election, the US taught the world what chaos and rifts really mean instead of how the US sets an example as a beacon.

Election disputes have occurred in recent US history. A recount dispute in Florida’s 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore led to a month-long series of legal battles. The dispute was solved through legal means, or in other words, rationality and compromise. 

But rationality and compromise were both absent from last November election. The world watched the election for fun as a bystander. At a time when the epidemic situation keeps worsening, the US is staging petty shows one after another. The year-long drama has exposed the entrenched division and polarization in US society.

“American-styled democracy is not the cure to make America great again, but the catalyst to expose the dark side of it,” the Global Times concluded.

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