10/10/2016, 14.47
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Asians on the Trump-Clinton debate

Yesterday’s presidential debate marginally touched Asian matters, focusing instead on domestic and crude level (especially sexual) issues. The Japanese favour Clinton. South Koreans appear undecided. Singapore is concerned about the lack of a position on the issues like the South China Sea. China remains officially neutral, but Chinese immigrants favour Trump. Indian immigrants support Clinton.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – In Asia, reactions to the second televised debate between the two US presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, ranged from embarrassment over its crude level to concerns that domestic issues crowded out Asia and China with slogans treated as solutions.

Predictably, the second debate that took place yesterday at Washington University in St Louis (Missouri) focused mainly on Trump’s views of women and the past sexual sins of Ms Clinton’s husband.

In general, online newspapers, from Japan to Saudi Arabia, chose to reprint reports from international agencies. The South China Morning Post gave a fuller account of the televised debate, which owing to time difference, took place when it was morning in the Far East, with comments from social media and Asian journalists.

For Peh Shing Huei, a former journalist with the Straits Times (Singapore), people in the small South-east Asian nation are dismayed by the little attention given to foreign policy in the debate.

Singapore is in a difficult situation as one of the few ASEAN nations to have criticised Beijing's policy in the South China Sea.

"Singapore needs a United States actively involved in this region, acting as a counter balance to the growing might of China,” Peh wrote. “Worryingly for Asia, these concerns hardly found a mention during the debate.”

The Japanese are happy instead about the silence about their country. In recent months, Trump singled out Japan for weakening the yen to improve exports and for not paying its fair share for US protection.

For Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute, Trump’s declining fortunes are a good thing. “There was real fear in Japan about the possibility of a Trump presidency, at least until the debates, about the potential impact on both national security and trade,” he said.

Even in South Korea, Trump has few friends. The Hankyoreh daily said Trump is turning the election into a mudslinging match while Clinton is displaying an “atmosphere of civility”. More detached, the Korea Economic Daily called the event America’s “most obscene presidential debate”.

Officially, China remains indifferent to the US election. However, the government banned online coverage of yesterday’s debate, as it did with the first.

On-line comments and non-government media focused mainly on the 2005 video of Trump’s attitude towards women.

“The public is fully aware that neither Trump nor Clinton are role models,” the pro-government Global Times wrote in an editorial.

What is more, for the South China Morning Post, many Chinese immigrants to the US are in favour of Trump just because of his unconventional style.

Indian immigrants seem more favourable to Clinton because of Trump’s views about immigrants and his support for higher tariffs on imports.

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