‘The Divided States of America,’ ‘Over $16.7 billion,’ China’s media has embraced U.S. news reports on 2022 midterm elections
President Biden has often described the differences in international politics as those between democracies and autocracies. One person who really does not like that description is Xi Jinping, who has just gained a precedent-breaking third or even lifetime term as the head of the Communist Party of China, or basically head of China. Xi let Biden know his disapproval when the two met in Bali, Indonesia on Nov. 14.
“The so-called 'democracy versus authoritarianism' narrative is not the defining feature of today's world,” Xi told Biden. “Freedom, democracy and human rights are the common pursuit of humanity and also the unwavering pursuit of the CPC,” he continued, “Just as the United States has American-style democracy, China has Chinese-style democracy; both fit their respective national conditions.”
That may be Xi’s polite way to say it. His party-state media, however, is not so kind. It constantly attacks the “American-style democracy” as fake, money bought, elite run, etc. Thanks to America’s free press and free speech, China’s media has a lot of material to borrow in those attacks.
On Nov. 3, CNBC posted a piece titled “Federal and state spending on 2022 elections set to top $16.7 billion, making them the most expensive midterms ever.” It cited data from the non-profit non-partisan OpenSecrets, whose slogan is “follow the money in American politics,” and quoted Sheila Krumholz, OpenSecrets’ executive director, “No other midterm election has seen as much money at the state and federal levels as the 2022 elections.” Of the $16.7 billion, according to OpenSecrets, $8.9 billion was to be spent by federal candidates and political committees, $7.8 by state ones. Next day, on Nov. 4, China News ran a partial translation of the CNBC story, with this title, “Most expensive in history! U.S. midterm elections estimated cost to top $16.7 billion.” The same piece was then reprinted by smaller and local news outlets all over China’s internet, all screaming “Most expensive in history!”
On Nov. 7, Politico carried an opinion titled “How Political Violence Went Mainstream on the Right.” It started with the attack on Paul Pelosi, reviewed political violence in the last few years and in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly on the left, and the 1980s and 1990s, more on the right, and stated that Americans’ willingness for partisan violence now approached levels in Northern Ireland at the height of its troubles. CCTV News picked it up and ran a translation of the Politico piece on Nov. 12 with this title, “U.S. media: Political violence has gone mainstream on right extremes,” along with the same photo of the Jan. 6 riot.
On Nov. 8, the Atlantic magazine published an article titled “The Divided States of America.” The author wrote about how calcified American politics had become, and how voters of both parties now viewed elections not as opportunities to shape the direction of government policy, but as existential battles, as President Biden warned the fate of democracy was on the line, just as Trump had warned that Democrats wanted to destroy America. China’s Reference News, Xinhua News, CCTV, People’s Daily all followed up on Nov. 10 with a short translation of the Atlantic piece, with this title, “American media using ‘Divided States of America’ in headline in reporting midterm elections.”
Also on Nov. 8, the New York Times ran a story titled “The World’s Democracies Ask: Why Can’t America Fix Itself?” The author had interviewed scholars, officials, and voters of other countries, from Canada to Taiwan, from New Zealand to Senegal, especially those who once looked upon the U.S. as a guarantor of democracy, like Lithuania. Many expressed alarm that the U.S. seemed to be sliding away from its core ideals, with the Jan. 6 riot rejecting peaceful transfer of power, the Supreme Court falling prey to party politics, etc. China’s CCTV followed up on Nov. 11 with an abridged translation of the NYT article, with a longer, more dramatic title, “American media: U.S. ushers in midterm elections amidst political polarization. American-style democracy is losing direction.”
On Nov. 9, America magazine published a news analysis titled “The 2022 midterms remind us: The two-party system is doomed to fail.” The author said the midterm election was like every national election this century that had ended in a kind of frustrating stalemate between our two major political parties, and that, “Almost everyone is frustrated because they want one party to finally achieve a decisive win and pull the country out of a polarization vortex — but it never happens.” China’s Reference News followed up on Nov. 14 with a full translation of the America story, with this title, “U.S. media article: U.S. election stalemate highlights the limitations of the two-party system.”