US election undermines democracy, China says as it watches Trump-Clinton battle

People watch a direct broadcast of the first U.S. presidential debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at a cafe in Beijing, China, September 27, 2016.
Damir Sagolj | Reuters

The "race to the bottom" taking place in the U.S. presidential election campaign is delighting one observer: Communist China.

After Monday's second presidential debate, in which Republican nominee Donald Trump threatened to jail rival Hillary Clinton if he made it to the White House, state-run media outlet China Daily took the opportunity to expound on the perils of democracy.

An opinion piece by Zhang Zhixin, a specialist in American politics at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, described the "chaotic" election campaign as highlighting the "dysfunction of democracy."

"The 'email-gate' uncovered by the release of the Democratic National Committee emails stunned the world, and showed that the so-called fair selection of candidates was anything but," he wrote in reference to Wikileaks' release in July of emails that appeared to show the committee was biased against Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had been Clinton's closest competition for the Democratic nomination.

"Meanwhile, whether the outspoken and reckless real-estate mogul Donald Trump wins the race or not, he has irreversibly damaged US democracy already," Zhang added.

The opinion piece goes on to critique the personal attacks made by both camps on their rivals during the campaign, the ills of the de facto two-party electoral system and winner-takes-all primary voting system - which China Daily said made "extreme candidates" stand out - and how democracy had to eventually "yield to populism" with the GOP's nomination of Trump.

"The 2016 presidential election has made one thing clear, the U.S. needs political reform," Zhang concluded.

Trump, Clinton refrain from shaking hands
Trump, Clinton refrain from shaking hands

The commentary came after similar sentiments were published by the Communist Party-run People's Daily and its nationalistic sister paper Global Times.

People's Daily recently recounted issues surrounding the "chaotic political show," such as WikiLeaks' promise last week of more "significant" disclosures about the election campaign, and the questions surrounding Trump's taxes.

The editorial said U.S. citizens were "becoming more and more frustrated by the political campaign," and advised the country to "take a close, honest look at its arrogant democracy and flawed politics."

The Global Times, meanwhile, listed what it saw as the flaws of the two candidates, including labeling Trump an "insolent populist" and claiming that Clinton "manipulated the media to speak well of her," but gave both some benefit of the doubt.

"It's possible that they are, in fact, not that bad in real life and have passable ethical standards," the Global Times opined recently. "It may be the U.S. election system that made them fierce. They describe each other as villains, because they want to manipulate public opinion in order to win the presidential race."

"The election will continue to be the top entertainment in the U.S.," the publication concluded. "The race to the bottom will continue to mislead people, as well as make them rethink the value of democracy."

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