China, Japan citizens back Obama for second term: poll

November 2, 2012 7:28 am
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This file photo shows Obama touring the Great Wall of China in Badaling, outside Beijing, in 2009/AFP
HONG KONG, Nov 2 – Citizens of China and Japan overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama to win a second term, according to an AFP-Ipsos poll which suggests Mitt Romney’s tough talk on the Asian powers could have dented his image.

The US elections may be a toss-up at home but the survey carried out by Ipsos Hong Kong found a whopping 86 percent of Japanese back the Democrat incumbent compared to only 12.3 percent for Republican party candidate Romney.

Chinese respondents were less emphatic, but still a hefty 63 percent said they wanted Obama to serve out another four years, according to the online poll conducted in September and October.

Analysts said Obama’s record on the economy and security had buttressed his standing in the East, while Romney’s outspoken comments on Beijing’s alleged currency manipulation and Japan’s economic decline may have lost him some friends.

“Asia wants Obama to win the election overall, but China has more supporters of Romney than Japan,” Ipsos Hong Kong associate director Andrew Lam said.

“It is possible that Romney’s strong stand on currency and trade, as well as his plan to have a stronger military capability in the Pacific, has led the Chinese to believe it is better to stay with the status quo.

“For Japan, Romney’s low popularity is possibly linked to his earlier public comment about Japan being an economy in decline. Japanese have strong national pride, and could react negatively toward this kind of public remark.”

“Many people feel that Obama looks after the bottom level of society, with his policies such as medical reform, and a lot of Chinese people support that… There is some suspicion of rich businessmen entering politics”

The Chinese are around three times more likely to approve of Romney despite his more hawkish stance on trade and military spending, according to the AFP-Ipsos survey which will be publicly released on Monday.

Romney’s popularity was highest among older Chinese and in less developed “Tier Two” cities, inland population centres which have not industrialised at the pace of the more economically liberal special economic zones such as Shanghai.

International relations expert Chen Qi, of China’s Tsinghua University, said some Chinese held the Republican party in high regard based on its history of engagement with Beijing going back to president Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit.

But he said many other Chinese did not look favourably on Romney’s background as a wealthy capitalist.

“Many people feel that Obama looks after the bottom level of society, with his policies such as medical reform, and a lot of Chinese people support that… There is some suspicion of rich businessmen entering politics,” Chen said.

Romney has repeatedly vowed to brand Beijing a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office, as a way to address China’s huge trade surplus with the United States.

“They’re taking jobs, and we’ve been looking the other way for too long,” he said on the campaign trail last month.

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