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Mainland watches American democracy, but without envy

BEIJING -- The world's two biggest economies choose their next leaders in early November, an accident of timing that lays bare the vivid contrast between China's opaque communist state and America's riotous democracy.

The rhythm of the presidential election in the United States has been set by three televised debates watched by tens of millions of voters, with campaigning carried out online as well as at boisterous rallies that draw thousands.

On the other side of the Pacific the power games are under way behind closed doors, as Communist Party leaders jostle for positions ahead of the regime's once-in-a-decade leadership change starting on Nov. 8 at a special congress.

The victor of the Nov. 6 contest between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is too close to call, but it is almost certain the new Chinese president will be Xi Jinping, currently vice president in the one-party state.

Speaking to AFP at a university campus in Beijing, Chinese students from diverse backgrounds said they were following closely the change in Washington, which was more lively and entertaining than the transition at home.

State television relays events on the U.S. campaign trail, while websites such as ifeng provided live streaming of the debates and social media networks buzz with discussion of the process and perceived China-bashing by the candidates.

But many of the students' comments made clear they had no desire to import Western-style democracy to China immediately.

“Copying in a mechanical way American democracy would cause a lot of problems in China, even if we need to go that way in order to make progress here,” said 24-year-old Zheng Kailun, a philosophy student.

Others admired how the U.S. candidates faced off in the televised debates and even poked fun at each other at a gala dinner last week in New York.

October 31, 2012    mattwhall@
And Americans thank God everyday that they aren't Chinese. I guess good fences DO make good neighbors.
November 1, 2012    nothere@
The people of the two countries see their government, and its responsibility to the people, different.
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