In China, Fascination With Obama’s Skin Color

Edward Cody – The Washington Post

Copyright The Washington Post
June 17, 2008
BEIJING, June 16 — America may be discussing whether Barack Obama is tough enough to field a 3 a.m. phone call, but for the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the real issue is his race.
“Obama’s skin color is the biggest focal point of this year’s U.S. election,” said the opening line in a front-page editorial in the overseas edition of Monday’s People’s Daily newspaper.
The editorial, while perhaps stark in its analysis, gave voice to a fascination among many Chinese at the sight of a black man running for president in the world’s most powerful nation. The U.S. campaign, and Obama’s victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton, have provided them with a noticeable contrast to China’s own situation, where Han Chinese eclipse minorities by their overwhelming majority and show no sign of relinquishing their hold on the levers of power.
The race issue has become particularly sensitive here in recent months, with the Public Security Bureau accusing Muslim Uighur separatists in the Xinjiang region of plotting terrorist attacks in Beijing, and Tibetans rioting against Han Chinese rule in Lhasa, the Tibetan regional capital, and several other Tibetan-inhabited areas.
The editorial sought to explain that Obama’s breakthrough should not be understood as a demonstration that race relations have crossed a threshold in the United States that China has yet to approach. Obama, it said, became the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee because, as a Harvard lawyer, he shares the same “background” as others in the U.S. elite.
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