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In Obama win, China sees key prize: stability (+video)

President Obama’s reelection was welcomed by China, as well as Japan and South Korea, as the region experiences sharpening tensions over territorial disputes.

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Comparing the two countries’ political systems was like “comparing mature apples and unripe oranges,” argued Huang He, a student at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of American Studies. “And even when the orange is ripe it won’t be an apple.”

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“We want to develop as fast as possible, but we need social stability,” agreed fellow student Li Mingbo. “Social stability is more important than a democratic system at present,” he insisted, voicing an official opinion that is widely shared among ordinary Chinese.

Stability, stability, stability

Stability, and the likelihood that Obama’s reelection will provide it in international relations, was important to diplomatic observers in Asia.

“The new President Obama will be like the old President Obama,” predicts Shi Yinhong, an expert on US-China relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “He will not abandon his moderate approach to economic rivalries and frictions” between the world’s two largest economies.

Nor does Professor Shi expect any change in Obama’s strategic “pivot” toward Asia. “He will continue to guard against, check, and even squeeze China’s strategic presence in Asia and the Pacific,” Shi forecasts.

“The US has won more friends in the region over the past four years and China has lost friends,” Shi worries. “That process of competition will continue.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao sent congratulatory telegrams to Obama, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman. Mr. Hu said in his message that China and the United States had made "positive progress" in their relationship over the past four years and that "the continued health and stable development of Sino-US relations suits the fundamental interests of the people on both sides, and is good for the Asia Pacific region and for world peace, stability, and development."

The view from South Korea?

The view from South Korea, which will hold its own presidential elections next month, is much the same.

“We don’t expect any changes in Obama’s foreign policy toward North Korea or Northeast Asia,” says Kim Dae-joong, a conservative columnist with the Chosun Ilbo, a Korean daily newspaper.

Not that Mr. Kim is especially happy with that, since neither the US, nor any of the regional powers involved in six-party talks to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, has had any tangible success so far.

Obama’s second term “will just be a continuation of his first-term policy” toward the Korean Peninsula, says Kim. “And I don’t think he has any greater chances of success than he did in his first term.” 

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