Between US President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, who would Beijing like to see win?
In the past, China used the political tactic of "courting one faction while punishing the other." Examples can range from some form of intervention to financial donations to political parties. China is becoming wiser by not expressing its position outright. Chinese-American expatriate groups (who are predominantly pro-Beijing) are mobilizing for Kerry, while some others have contributed to both sides -- but act as though they are neutral.
In a USA Today report on a poll conducted in China recently, a majority of Chinese people wanted Kerry to win the election. Another poll conducted by the University of Maryland and GlobalScan also stated that only 12 percent of Chinese are in favor of Bush, and as many as 52 percent support Kerry's bid; while 8 percent think that it will not make no difference who is elected. Beijing's propaganda machine regards Bush as a tyrant for his war in Iraq, his pro-Taiwan stance and the arms sales to Taiwan. Thus, Chinese public opinion of Bush leaves much to be desired.
According to 2,000 people surveyed in 11 major Chinese cities by the Social Service Institute of China, 76 percent of respondents were concerned about the US presidential election, and of those, 40 percent supported Bush; while 38 percent supported Kerry.
What causes this discrepancy between polls conducted by US and Chinese pollsters? It is a topic worthy of research. Can the discrepancy be explained by government intervention (which makes the Chinese polls untrustworthy)?
In one "impromptu" poll, a hotel restaurant in Guangdong Province's Foshan City has a banner hanging on its front door advertising the "Bush duck" or "Kerry duck" on its menu as a way for customers to select their favorite candidate. The results show that 47 percent of customers chose the Bush dish and 57 percent chose the Kerry dish. In such a setting, with less intervention by the Chinese government, the poll indicates that customers at the restaurant like Kerry better, which is more in tune with the surveys conducted by US pollsters.
There is also a theory that the Chinese public supports Kerry, but the government is in favor of Bush. It is understandable why the public are in favor of Kerry. A majority of overseas Chinese in the US also see Kerry as a better choice. This can be seen from the position taken by much of the Chinese-language media in the US. The conclusion that the Chinese authorities prefer Bush can be drawn from opinions expressed by Chinese experts and academics in the foreign media. As these people are associated with the government, their intentions for expressing such view must be called into question. Experts believe the reason that the government likes Bush is simply because they are familiar with communicating with him. Why would Beijing choose Bush, who treats Taiwan as a friend, rather than Kerry, who once expressed his support for using the Hong Kong's model of "one country, two systems" as a way to solve the cross-strait issue?
(Although in a recent interview conducted by the Sing Tao Daily News, Kerry said that the "one country, two systems" would not work in Taiwan).
Former US president Bill Clinton established a "strategic partnership" with China during his administration. Democrats should therefore be more attractive to Beijing, as Kerry's election offers the possibility of reviving that relationship.