Europe

Trump-Biden Debate Prompts Shock, Despair and, in China, Glee

In Singapore, which prides itself on technocratic governance and a careful form of democracy, Bilahari Kausikan, a former ambassador, dismissed the presidential debate as political theater.

“Debate? What debate?” he asked. “The event was not intended to change minds or elucidate issues. It was only a form of entertainment which did credit to neither the incumbent nor the challenger. It encapsulates all that has gone wrong with American politics.”

In Japan, a debate earlier this month among three candidates seeking the job of prime minister was a staid — if not downright sleepy — contrast to the fireworks of the Trump-Biden face-off.

The Japanese are sophisticated viewers of American politics, and Mr. Trump is a known quantity, but the tone of this debate still case as something of a shock. When Many were taken aback when Mr. Biden told Mr. Trump at one point to “shut up, man,” said Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to the United States. “If the president says that, everyone takes it as natural,” he added, “but for a decent man like Biden to say that is a bit of a surprise.”

Mr. Trump has fans in Japan. A tweet about the debate proclaiming that it “looks like Trump will get re-elected, almost certainly” was liked about 9,000 times and retweeted 1,000 times. Another social media post questioned NHK, the public broadcaster, for cutting out “the bad scenes of Biden” and said the editors “intentionally mistranslated Trump’s remarks.”

Yujin Yaguchi, a professor of American Studies at the University of Tokyo, said that English-language students in Japan often watched presidential debates to study speech technique. “What we saw today is just not usable,” Mr. Yaguchi said politely. “Most people in Japan would be dismayed by the mudslinging style of the debate.”

Mr. Fujisaki said that the reaction of Japanese people would have to wait for the results. Invoking a diplomatic joke, he compared the election to a Christmas gift.

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