BEIJING China welcomed Barack Obama as a
youthful president-elect with the energy to tackle the
financial crisis now threatening its economy and an ethnic
heritage that could help America reach out to the rest of the
Excitement about the billion dollar race filtered down to
the streets of Beijing on Wednesday, where ordinary Chinese
citizens who have never voted themselves and some who could not
even name the candidates embraced Obama's message of change.
"The black guy is a good choice, he has so much more energy
than the other one, who was far too old," said Han Xue, a new
father who runs a small cigarette and alcohol store and
followed the results on a television behind the counter.
The dramatic victory, in which Obama carried some states
that had not voted for his Democratic party in decades, was a
major boost to America's reputation.
"I am very happy U.S. history was made. I think in a lot of
Chinese people's eyes America was a racist country, even today
the television said that white people wouldn't vote for Obama,"
said Li Nan, a student at the Chinese Academy of Social
"I think that a lot of Chinese will change their mind now."
But gathering economic storm clouds, which threaten to
undermine decades of rapid growth, mean the economic policies
of the next leader of the United States are almost as big a
concern in Beijing as they were in polling booths across
"Obama may be more ideological and that could be less good
for China in terms of trade," said Wang Hongtao, an Obama
supporter studying for a doctorate at the Central Party School
in Beijing, and following the results at an embassy election
Belt-tightening by U.S. consumers as their economy
flounders has hit Chinese exporters hard in the "factory of the
world," even though strict controls have protected its banks
from the worst of the financial tsunami swamping foreign
"Officials say there is no impact, but you only have to
look around to see that the crisis is already affecting us,"
said retiree and firm Obama supporter Yu Ze, during a break
from a ping-pong game in a Beijing park.
"It's better to have a young person with the energy to
handle this. We are a little worried about his position on
trade issues, but we think his vice-president really
Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, is a foreign policy
veteran, chosen partly for his years of experience.
TREAT US AS EQUALS
Many Chinese hope Obama's message of unity and respect, and
his promise not to demonise China, will usher in a new era for
U.S. ties with the emerging Asian giant.
"Obama needs to treat China as an equal, he needs to
respect what we are doing and what we have achieved. Bush was
too pushy," said 24-year-old English teacher Wu Shan.
Chinese Communist leaders have long believed that the
United States is determined to subvert and overturn its
one-party rule, a theory reinforced by President George W.
Bush's support for pro-Western "colour revolutions" in
And many ordinary Chinese see Western criticisms of their
country as a product of fear and envy over its rise, and worry
they will try and hold back further development.
"The president needs to understand that China is still a
developing country," said Guo Jie, a student of Japanese.
In general though, the outgoing administration is less
unpopular in China than many other parts of the world.
"Actually, Bush's presidency was quite good for China in
many ways," said street-cleaning supervisor Wang Erxiao, citing
expanded trade and adding he would have been happy to see
Republican candidate John McCain continue his party's
But in a country where getting involved in politics has
long been a recipe for trouble, many ordinary Chinese were
steering well clear of a vote taking place thousands of miles
"Politics gives me a headache," said taxi driver Li Hong
with a grin. "I stick to entertainment shows on my radio."
(Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby and Ian Ransom;
Editing by Nick Macfie and Bill Tarrant)