First Presidential Debate of the 2016 US Election

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On Monday September 26, 2016 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton met on the debate stage for the first time at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Moderated by Lester Holt, the topics of the debate included "America's Direction," "Achieving Prosperity," and "Securing America." 

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"Former US ambassador Kim Beazley has described as 'terrifying' that Donald Trump might win the US election saying he 'lies virtually every time he puts out a presentation on anything'."


"But overall he [Trump] has remained politically enigmatic. While he relentlessly attacked China for causing economic woes for the US, the Chinese are pleased by his vows to dismantle the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which excludes China and is seen as an attempt to curb its influence. Also music to Chinese ears was his repeated questioning of America’s military commitment in the region at a time when China’s assertive stance on territorial disputes, including those over the South China Sea, has caused unease in the region. And Trump rarely attacked China’s political system or human rights record. As a result, there have been some suggestions over the past few weeks that China might actually prefer Trump to Clinton, taking all factors into consideration. Of course, making that assumption is still premature. As far as politics and international diplomacy are concerned, it is arguably better for Beijing to deal with someone it knows so well." 

"The highly-anticipated and widely-watched presidential debate only confirmed that the U.S. election politics has evolved in a absurd way. First, in the Republican primaries, Trump has tapped into voters' anger at the political stalemate in Washington and the slowing economic recovery, playing on fear of foreign influences and sentiment of those left behind due to globalization to win over white middle-class Americans. However, structural problems facing the country, such as political polarization, the shrinking of the middle class, rampant gun violence and racial discrimination, can not be resolved through the discharge of anger. Secondly, intense partisan division and animosity run deep. Both Trump, who won the Republican nomination but remains on the political sidelines, and Clinton who upholds political correctness, played the debate into a personal show. Placing partisanship higher than public opinion, they failed to connect to the people, giving little emphasis to the policy positions voters really want."

"Two of China’s biggest news websites, Caixin Online and NetEase, put up live-streams of the debate, but internet regulators called for news outlets to shut down their streams shortly after the debate began. Meanwhile, Sina Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform, lived-streamed the entire debate without incident. The stream, which is still available, received more than 40,000 likes, 15,000 shares and 13,000 comments."

"During presidential campaigns, the candidates are more inclined to balance the varying interests of domestic groups. While after a new president takes office, issue of national security, policymaking of international trade rules and geopolitical security can be comprehensively considered. The TPP, being a crucial pillar for the US' trade strategy in the Asia-Pacific region, may not be easily shelved. [...] If the US puts aside the TPP, there wouldn't be any better source for the country to influence and lead regional integration, and the US is unlikely to abandon the initiative it has gained in the policymaking of new global trade rules. Arguments about TPP, TTIP and Brexit will have certain impact on the progress of regional integration across the globe, but that doesn't mean the subsiding of regional integration. These changes suggest that, under the new development of regional integration, new ideas and models of governance are needed in regional cooperation."

"Trump's remarks during the debate show that he knows little about China, US foreign policy or the geopolitical situation. And that's why many of his statements were confusing and inconsistent. It has become a US norm for politicians to shirk responsibilities on the North Korean nuclear issue by blaming China while increasing its military presence in the region. But what Trump wants is for the US to pass the buck in the region." - Yuan Zheng, Deputy Director of American Foreign Policy Studies, Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Bai  [Yi, a Chinese student at Hofstra University] said he wants Clinton to be the next U.S. president, but it would better for China-US relations if Trump won the election. 'Trump is a businessman who should care only about doing business" with China,' he said. 'I'm kind of worried if Hillary becomes president because she might drag us back into the capitalism-versus-communism ideological war we saw years ago.'"

"The US will not stop pursuing its privilege as a superpower, and this will for sure challenge the status of China and Russia. While Clinton tends to make the current system more favorable to the US, Trump is more straightforward in maximizing benefits. The China-US relationship will witness more difficulties in the future. The US will also weigh benefits from its ties with China with those from a tougher China policy, and evaluate whether it could afford the price of jeopardizing its relationship with Beijing. Chinese do not want to see China pressured by Clinton, and meanwhile are uncertain of Trump's presidency. Let Americans worry about who will end up in the White House. Chinese should be ready for the change in the US presidency. We have many tools to respond, enough for the future US president to feel the dread if it makes trouble with China. Such tools matter more than the goodwill of American presidents."


"For Asians, America’s global position depends on at least three interlocking issues. They are its relations with China, the most important bilateral relationship for both powers; the role of the US in furthering global trade; and the degree to which the US can be a credible security partner for Asia. On each of these counts, there are differences between the Republican and Democratic candidates. It would be instructive if their debate clarified exactly where these differences lie, and where they could lead."


Contributors to various Indian media sources weigh in on the first US 2016 presidential debate and their impressions of the candidates. 


"Most significantly, as befits a former secretary of state and one of the prime movers behind the U.S. 'rebalance to Asia,' Clinton understands the true meaning and value of U.S. alliances and her country’s role in the Asia-Pacific region. As she explained to the audience — in a way that felt as though it was aimed at foreign viewers — 'I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.' That is what the world expects from the U.S. president. We hope American voters appreciate that fact."

"The election is just a month and a half away. As things stand, the U.S. will likely continue to face an economic slowdown and lose international influence regardless of who wins in November."

"Yet both candidates oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. The overriding sentiment that free trade costs U.S. jobs evoked the image of a more inward-looking nation than the superpower that once drove globalization. The TPP is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's diplomatic "rebalance" to the Asia-Pacific region and a key part of efforts to rein in China's aggressive assertion of maritime territorial claims. Neither Trump nor Clinton offered clear solutions on how to deal with China's rise, nor on how to tackle terrorism or North Korea's nuclear development."


“I truly feel sorry for the U.S. citizens who have to entrust the country to these people, who are blinded by the gold. [...]…the U.S.’ election campaign is the fanfare of dogfights among money grabbers, the stage of the law of the jungle tainted with fraud and deception.” - Editorial published in the Wednesday edition of North Korea's biggest domesitc paper Rodong Sinmun 


 "One reason experts are optimistic that US support for engagement in Asia will likely survive the nativist election is that the logic for doing so is unassailable. Asia will be the most important region in the world in the coming decades and the US needs to be a player there. The maintenance of the rebalance also doesn't require the sort of military expenditure that US involvement in other regions demands. [...] Yet pessimists might point to the sheer unpredictability of Congress and the level of influence the President still has with lawmakers. Three months before the end of his eight years in office, lawmakers decided to override his veto for the first time. (Mr Obama had vetoed a Bill that allowed families of Sept 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, but Congress overwhelmingly voted to overturn that veto.)"

Viewers from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea express their reactions to the first presidential debate of the 2016 election. 


"The polling organization Gallup International released findings on Sep. 30 from a “virtual vote” conducted with 44,194 adults in 45 countries in August and September. For South Korea, the Clinton vote came out to 82%. China had the highest rate of support for Trump among any of the countries at 44%. [...]  In Japan, Clinton enjoyed 50% support, while 37% of participants said they did not know or declined to answer."

"Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement has taken jobs from Americans. But a recent U.S. government report is telling the opposite. In its 'Jobs supported by export destination 2015' report, the U.S. Department of Commerce said: 'Korea is the country that made the fourth-largest contribution to jobs created in the United States.' The report estimated about 890,000 new jobs were created thanks to U.S. exports between 2009 and 2015." 

"As the debate showed, the US is divided in terms of basic values and the country’s future, and these divisions are reflected in its foreign policy. This problem is unlikely to be solved for good no matter who is elected, but the outcome will largely hinge on the course that is taken. That’s why we should all be paying attention to this US election."

Additional Topics in the Asia Reacts to... Series

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's Trip to India and the Philippines
Secretary of State John Kerry's Historic Visit to Hiroshima
Donald Trump's Comments on Possible Nuclear Armament of Japan and South Korea
 Nominations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump 
Donald Trump's First Foreign Policy Speech
President Barack Obama's First Visit to Vietnam
President Barack Obama's Historic Visit to Hiroshima
 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Fourth Visit to the United States
 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Deployment
2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions
President Barack Obama's Final Trip to Asia 
Second Presidential Debate of the 2016 US Election
Final Presidential Debate of the 2016 US Election
 Election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States
 President-Elect Donald Trump's Talks with Asian Leaders
The Inauguration of Donald J. Trump
 President Donald Trump's Executive Order on the Trans-Pacific Partnership 
 US Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord
 President Donald Trump's First Visit to Asia


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