Saturday, January 16, 2021

Presidential debate or ‘quarrel at a vegetable market’?

The world watched and wondered what the chaotic debate tells us about the current state of America.

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The undignified US presidential debate on Tuesday has shocked and puzzled American allies and rivals around the world.

The world watched and wondered if the chaos said something fundamental about the state of US democracy.

“There is a consensus in Europe that this is getting out of hand, and this debate is an indicator of the bad shape of American democracy.” Ulrich Speck, an analyst in Berlin, told the New York Times.

“The debate was a joke,” commented Markus Feldenkirchen of the German magazine Der Spiegel.  “Two over-70s who interrupt each other like five-year-olds.”

Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations, said the debate showed the deep divides in today’s America, even in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Those two men are from the same generation, from the same world,” he said. “And yet they are the two faces of a deeply polarised society.”

In China, official reaction was guarded but the Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, was gleeful. Hu Xijin, the paper’s editor, said “Such a chaos at the top of US politics reflects division, anxiety of US society and the accelerating loss of advantages of the US political system.”

On Chinese social media, posters said the debate had left them puzzled and amused. One user said that Trump’s frequent interruptions of Biden lent a “comedic feel” to what should have been a serious discussion, while another compared the debate to a quarrel at a vegetable market.

In Singapore, Bilahari Kausikan, a former ambassador, asked, “Debate? What debate? It was only a form of entertainment which encapsulates all that has gone wrong with American politics.”

Yujin Yaguchi, a professor of American Studies at the University of Tokyo, said that English-language students in Japan often watch presidential debates to study speech technique. “What we saw today is just not usable, people in Japan will be dismayed by the mudslinging style of the debate.”

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