Foreign Policy Blogs

Contrasting Elections in the U.S. and China

When two of the world’s largest superpowers undergo political transitions at the same time, contrasts are inevitable.  One of the best comparisons comes from the above cartoon, which contrasts the bombardment of information from the American press with the deafening silence from China’s new leadership.  While many Americans are sick and tired of the relentless political campaign of television ads,  newspaper editorials, and robocalls, and are relieved to have finally selected a winner, the average Chinese is left out of the decision-making process.  With the 18th Party Congress starting tomorrow, many Chinese citizens find they can only weigh in on social issues through the highly-censored microblogging platform Sina Weibo.  And many citizens are anxious to become even more active politically.  In a recent poll by the Global Times, more than 70 percent of respondents said they believed that the government should further accept public supervision from the public and the media.  The question for many Americans who are exhausted with the full-on political process is this –  which would you prefer, too much information or too little?


  • Daniela Suarez

    This cartoon exemplifies how some Americans feel compared to Chinese. It is a contradictory feeling because most Americans are very excited to vote and are bombarding their social networking sites; that is all they want to talk about. We are glad to have the ability to vote and put our two cents into what is going in the country. i definitely think that having too much information is a better option because this way each individual can make their own decision since they know all they should know to make a right decision. Contrary to other countries like China, were I think people wish they knew what was going on and that they could have an opinion.

  • Unfortunately, most Americans do not vote. According to The Associated Press, around 117 million are estimated to have turned out to vote for the president this year. Out of the 169 countries that tracker voter data, the United
    States ranks 120th in the world.

  • LaTonya Roberts

    I think that it’s because America is fortunate enough to have options and opinions why eventually we take it for granted and it appears that we don’t care to have it anymore. The election has been overrun because it’s what our country is based on, i.e. presidency, voting, etc. and the media is making sure we have all the information on it. While China, on the other hand, is successful but also lacking in politics and media coverage. China and America are different in many ways. Of course you’re going to want what you can’t have and when you have it, you’re over it. But, to answer the question, I would prefer too much information over too little because knowledge is better than being clueless.

  • another reason for the low turnout I’ve heard about concerns voter apathy, some people didn’t turn out because they dislike both candidates…

  • Melissa d’AdP IDS3333

    I would definitely prefer to be over-informed as opposed to uninformed. I used to live in a country with a multiple party system and especially if I were still living there I would have preferred to have been bombarded with “relentless political campaigns” so I could familiarize myself better with the election and parties’ beliefs. Elections only happen every four years so it’s something I would gladly endure so I could make a more informed decision.

  • MikeyC IDS3333

    I would definitely prefer too much information. He or she is going to be running my country. I can just tune out what I don’t want to hear, its much better than remaining blind in the elections and learning the hard way after.

  • Good point MikeyC, we have the freedom to always switch channels or turn off when it gets to be too much.

  • Gabby Gottfried

    China and America are geopolitical competitors, but the means that their power has been achieved are VASTLY different.

    America’s values of democracy, capitalism, and freedom of speech have harbored a history made from the sum of its citizens, the politicians enforcing the values. China is a very different deal, and can owe much of its success to rigorous- sometimes blind- work, and a good deal of suppression from the government has kept this discipline.

    Though China has built (somewhat forcibly) a competitive economy, its oppressive government can never facilitate the dynamic ingenuity that ensues in America. Their election is a perfect example of their sheer difference- the citizens participate in none of the decision making. The lack of control for citizens is devastating socioeconomically and even physically. Wages for the common Chinese worker are substandard for their already humble lifestyle, and their healthcare leaves much to be asked for. These disadvantages for the citizens, along with its currency manipulation leaves China as, while a quantitatively powerful state, an undesirable geopolitical model for the rest of the world.

    This election difference is America’s edge to China.

  • Gabby’s point on “dynamic ingenuity” is spot-on, innovation necessarily depends on a free and open environment, whether it be in a classroom or office. Without innovation, an economy can only rely on copying and will always be one step behind..

  • caseyc2

    The grass is always greener on the other side. Ohio desperately wanted some peace and quiet “offered” to the Chinese during their elections while the restless Chinese youth desperately wanted some of the political arguing and vocalization. It really comes down to the whole issue of stability and change–two things that the Chinese greatly fear. If the Chinese government is in charge of “electing” a new leader, they are able to “elect” someone with similar ideas–someone who cherishes stability just as much as the next Chinese guy. Therefore, change is limited at best and Chinese political liberalization is highly unlikely because all decisions are made on consensus–unlike the American competitive model.

    But at the end of the day, it really comes down to the economy. For the first time, the Chinese economy showed some sign of weakness when their GDP was down. And although America wants China to reform, it is also worried about China’s rippling effect throughout the world’s economy. Once the Chinese economy is no longer able to sustain all of its population, then people will start looking for more political liberalization so that the people themselves can do something about the economic situation.

    Americans take their political freedom for granted. Whereas Chinese have to search “May 35” in order to circumvent the Chinese internet sensors to see pictures and articles of Tiananmen Square, the American news is flooded with political and social issues to the point of mere exhaustion. So it doesn’t come down to how much information you would prefer–but rather how informed your population can be. That’s the most important because an ignorant population (in any country–US or China) cannot make good decisions about their own country’s future.

  • I agree that an ignorant population is more prone to making bad decisions, and that no matter how much information is provided to the populace, they may remain ignorant. But at least the attempt to educate the voter was made….


Gary Sands
Gary Sands

Gary Sands is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat, a crowdsourced consultancy, and a Director at Highway West Capital Advisors, a venture capital, project finance and political risk advisory. He has contributed a number of op-eds for Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, Washington Times, The Diplomat, The National Interest, International Policy Digest, Asia Times, EurasiaNet, Eurasia Review, Indo-Pacific Review, the South China Morning Post, and the Global Times. He was previously employed in lending and advisory roles at Shell Capital, ABB Structured Finance, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. He earned his Masters of Business Administration in International Business from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a Bachelor of Science in Finance at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. He spent six years in Shanghai from 2006-2012, four years in Rio de Janeiro, and is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. [email protected]