Here's a sampling of the articles and blog posts spilling out of my RSS reader, all exploring Chinese reactions to their country's many mentions in the presidential debates:
"Chinese glued to U.S. debate, with envy and concern" – Keith B. Richburg, The Washington Post
"China and the U.S. presidential election" – video, the New York Times
"China media: Quiet on Communist Party Congress, gaga for U.S. election" – the Los Angeles Times
"Watching the debate in China: the panda sluggers" – Evan Osnos, the New Yorker
"China is wary of U.S. candidates' tough talk" – Jane Perlez, the New York Times
"Why China wants Romney to win" – Shen Dingli, Foreign Policy
And on and on. Impressively, they're all fascinating, and all find something novel to say about Chinese views of the race. They also seem to be popular with readers.
Partly, this is about China's growing fascination with America. "In China, far more people appear to be paying attention to the U.S. presidential race this year than in 2008. Internet usage has exploded since then, and the non-state-owned news media has become more vibrant," The Post's Keith B. Richburg explained. But it's also about Americans' growing interest in China, Chinese society and Chinese views. (How many articles have you read on Pakistani reactions to the debate? Did you notice their absence?)
For all the tough rhetoric coming from American politicians and Chinese state media, the deep mutual interest tells a different story. You have to wonder the degree to which China and America's deepening economic integration, which has also entangled Chinese and American political interests, might be a factor in citizens of both nations peeking over the cultural gulf as well.
I'm reminded of the headline of a recent BusinessWeek story: "Call It Chimerica: The U.S. and China Grow Ever Closer." The article was about economics, but it might have been about more.
This post is the first of what I hope to make a running series: Chimerica Watch, on the ever-deepening connections – and occasional culture clashes – between the world's richest country and its most populous nation. There's more to this story than you might think, so check back.