U.S. presidential election followed closely around the world

Sunday, October 12, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT

Winfield: The implications of the precarious economic conditions in the United States and the world are having an impact on the presidential elections here. The U.S. bailout solutions will spill over into a new presidential administration. With the news competition and with the global economic meltdown, how much attention is really being paid to the U.S. election around the world?

How do people perceive the American election in South Africa?

Linda Daniels, journalist and executive producer, Cape Talk Radio, Cape Town, South Africa: The saying "When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold," is true. Most South Africans realize that the condition of the U.S. economy obviously affects the South African economy. There have been massive job layoffs in the motor vehicle industry. The currency, the rand, has hit a seven-year low. It is now currently trading at just over nine rand to one dollar. In terms of the election, the credit crisis has kind of overshadowed the candidates in a way. People here are talking about the credit crisis, talking about the $700-billion bailout and watching its effects on the South African economy. It has not reached a crisis here yet because the Thabo Mbeki administration has had tight credit controls the last few years. America has an effect on us; people look at the papers every day to see how this crisis will resolve itself.

Winfield: Are people paying attention to the election in the midst of so much economic news?

Daniels: Yes. Most Africans, generally speaking, seem to have a sense of ownership when it comes to Barack Obama. He visited Kenya, the village where his father grew up, as well as South Africa and Chad, in 2006. When he was elected the first African-American presidential candidate, it made headlines in South Africa. Obama epitomizes leadership that we seem to be losing here. A lot is happening — Mbeki was ousted by supporters of Jacob Zuma. Senior ANC members (the ruling party of Mbeki and Zuma) indicated a breakaway from the ANC in support of Mbeki. A lot of South Africans are taking a keen interest in Obama because he seems to signify inclusion and participation and that great things can happen.

Winfield: Chris, what kind of attention is the U.S. election really getting in Russia?

Christopher Boian, Russian bureau chief, Agence France Presse, Moscow: The election is being closely watched here on different levels. On one level, there is a sense of genuine fascination — and there has been for a long time — at the process itself. They are also watching with some degree of trepidation, regardless of which candidate wins. There is anxiety about what the next administration is going to do and what impact that will have on this country. On the political level, there is a fair degree of cynicism about the entire process. Many Russians say they are tired of lectures from the U.S. about how democracy is supposed to look and work. Also, some Russians are watching the entire process as the American way of doing things — interesting in many ways, but not something that necessarily applies to Russia.

Winfield: What about Germany, Peter?

Peter Hille, correspondent, Deutsche Welle Radio, Berlin: I covered Obama's visit to Berlin in June. I have never seen anything of that magnitude before in Berlin. About 200,000 Germans, most of them young, showed up to listen to the senator's speech on foreign policy. It was like a politics-fest, a party atmosphere. Most Germans — in fact, most Europeans — regard John McCain as a frumpy old man; they identify with Obama. Opinion polls about who Germans would vote for for president in the U.S. said only six percent would vote for McCain and over 80 percent would vote for Obama. No U.S. election before has ever been covered as widely and as intensely as this one. Germans hear or read about it every day. Many Germans have feared the financial crisis will spill over to an economic crisis here. Climate change and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are two other topics high on the agenda here.

Winfield: On another continent, what is the response in the media and also among academic circles in China, Dean Li?

Xiguang Li, executive dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, Beijing: There has been extensive coverage about the American election, particularly the economic crisis on Wall Street. This crisis has resulted in at least a $300-billion loss for China because it bought a huge amount of U.S. debt. China is also one of the world's leading countries trying to bail out the U.S. China announced (last week) a huge interest rate in China to rescue America, a controversial move. Meanwhile, the American government decided to sell $6 billion of weapons to Taiwan, the largest amount of weapons in 40 years, which angered the Chinese public. So, there is a lot of criticism and angry comments in the Chinese media.

Winfield: What is the projection about foreign policy with the change in administration, Peter?

Hille: Germans have about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan. In the beginning, Germans mistook Obama as a pacifist, which he is clearly not. When Obama came to Berlin, he made clear he expected the German government to put more troops into Afghanistan. There is huge skepticism concerning this military mission. Even if Obama wins, he will have a hard time getting that. If McCain wins the election, it will be very hard to sell this mission as necessary.

Winfield: From Russia, do you see more of an emphasis on a multipolar world with the new administration?

Boian: When Vladimir Putin was president, he spoke for the need to diversify the centers of power in the world, to attenuate U.S. pre-eminence in political, diplomatic, economic and all other world affairs. The new president, Dmitry Medvedev, gave a speech recently saying the same things in Avignon, France, standing alongside the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. People are starting to believe the world's problems are such that no one country, no matter how wealthy or powerful, is in a position to resolve it by itself. New institutions, new ways of getting countries together to actually resolve the main problems are needed, rather than the U.S. calling all of the shots for everybody, as the Russians would see it. People on the streets are saying it too, not just the newspapers or the Kremlin. The U.S. election is not always the lead story, but almost every national newscast has some coverage. The re-imposition of state-controlled media outlets is a fact, but the content is factual and straightforward. I don't see many differences from how any other country, including the U.S., covers the election.

Winfield: Do you see any changes with a new administration, Dean Li?

Li: From the history between China and the U.S., a new administration will keep the current China policy. Hopefully, if Obama is elected, he will resume relations with China as a partner rather than George W. Bush's China as America's competitor. If the new American administration decides to regard China as a partner, it will be good for both countries.

Producers of Global Journalist are Missouri School of Journalism graduate students Jared Gassen, Hui Wang, Sananda Sahoo and Chris Hamby. 

Betty Winfield, a member of the Missouri School of Journalism faculty since 1990, was the guest moderator for the weekly radio program “Global Journalist.” It airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays on KBIA/91.3 FM or at



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