U.S. Debt Crisis Is Giving Democracy A Bad Name in China

At the Huffington Post, Joshua Hersh suggests that the US debt crisis is undermining the credibility of American government and the very principles it embodies.

“These kinds of debates have been a constant in our political life throughout the history of our republic — and sometimes, they are messy,” [Clinton] said in a speech in Hong Kong. “But this is how an open and democratic society ultimately comes together to reach the right solutions.”

Not everyone in China is so convinced.

“I fully understand her points, and I agree with her, that democracy sometimes makes things difficult, but that in the end they can make a compromise,” says Shen Dingli, the executive dean of the Institute of International Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“But most Chinese are not as sophisticated as that. They read Chinese newspapers, and the Chinese newspapers portray the U.S. as an irresponsible country that owes a lot of money to us, and is threatening to not pay it back.”

Gao Wenqian, a Chinese historian and senior policy adviser for the New York branch of Human Rights in China, says he has yet to see too much emphasis on the failings of democracy in the Chinese press. But he adds, “If this doesn’t get resolved, it would be a very convenient excuse for the Chinese official media to mock the democratic process in the U.S. ….”

A post at East Asia Forum sums up perceptions bluntly:

The concern is straightforward: if American lenders in Asia, especially China, cannot trust the US on its word to abide by a financial contract then they will be less willing to trust the US on defence, trade or other issues of strategic interest. For them, this ongoing debate is not about fiscal stability but is just another sign that America’s leadership is short-sighted, untrustworthy and declining.

In the view of its Asia neighbors, this abdication of responsibility by the US to honour its commitments continues a trend of ineffective government decisions, exemplified by the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq — where, after nearly a decade, a decisive victory has not been achieved — and the bumbled Hurricane Katrina disaster response. The US government has appeared as feeble at best and anemic at worse, while China’s government has achieved nearly double digit growth and successfully planned and met its five year goals.

See also The U.S. as ‘Lethal Laughing Stock’ by James Fallows at The Atlantic, and the similar shadow being cast over the Western media by the Murdoch phone hacking scandal.