Close to 25 million messages about the American polls had been sent on the Chinese social media website Sina Weibo by late Wednesday afternoon, making it by far the top topic, the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong said.
The messages ranged from celebratory to critical. One message cheered the fact that "'aggressive China' Romney" hadn’t won; another argued that the presidential race made little difference because "the Pentagon will always be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and Imperialist America will always be self-serving." Still others drew sharp comparisons between the U.S. election and the Chinese political system.
"Why do Chinese people pay attention to the United States election? It’s because of media hype, because of market attention, but at the bottom of their hearts, there is also a political longing," lamented one message gathered by the China Media Project.
Another Sina Weibo user was struck that "only 50 years" had passed between the U.S. civil rights movement and President Obama’s election as the first African American president.
"With this kind of incredible ability to correct/change its society, who can still say that capitalism is decadent and degenerate? With one foot in its grave?" the message asked.
While Internet users weighed in on the race, so did Chinese state media. The official New China News Agency ran an editorial urging the Obama administration to strengthen its relationship with China, which it complained had become one of the key whipping boys in the presidential campaign.
Other outlets took swipes at the American electoral system. The Global Times ran an editorial warning that "Western governments have given up their responsibility to lead society and now only shuffle voters and votes. This should alarm Chinese society."
"There's no perfect political system," the editorial added. "However, China's current system is widely considered to be an effective one. The efficiency of this system is both outstanding and rare.
"The most precious thing in the world is development. Some people think that happiness is more important than development. However, without development, the economy will deteriorate. Then what happiness can there be?" it asked.
-- Julie Makinen in Beijing. Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.Photo: A Chinese woman poses for a photograph with the cardboard cutouts of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Obama at an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday. Credit: Andy Wong/Associated Press