China Greets Obama's Re-Election With Muted Relief

Among Chinese citizens, there is a sense of frustration and fascination that Americans have the right to vote for their own leaders.

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In China, President Obama's re-election has been greeted with muted relief, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: As the vote closed in the U.S., ballots were still being cast in Beijing at a mock voting booth at the U.S. embassy's election party. For Chinese students like Lily Zhang and Zhang Weiwen, the novelty of voting was a heady experience.

LILY ZHANG: It was great. The first time I vote for the American president. That's very amazing and I'm very honored.

LIM: So who did you vote for?

ZHANG: Obama.

LIM: Why?

ZHANG WEIWEN: I think he's cute. Even though this is not a real vote, I feel excited because I have the right and it was very important.

LIM: On the other side of the room, guests posed with cardboard cutouts of the two challengers. Throughout the campaign, China's not expressed a preference either way. But a big cheer echoed through the room after the networks began calling for President Obama. It's just one day before China's political event of the decade, a party congress where power will be handed over to a new generation of leaders.

Author Zhang Lijia believes the coincidence of timing has highlighted the gap between the two political systems.

ZHANG LIJIA: There's always a sense of frustration, but also fascination with America. You know, people can have the right to vote for leaders, while we don't. But I think that the timing made the frustration more acute.


LIM: The excitement about the mock vote stands in sharp contrast to political apathy on the streets of Beijing. Seen from the Chinese capital, the U.S. election is a stark reminder of the elite nature of Chinese politics, reminding many Chinese about the lack of popular participation in their country's future. Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.

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