By Ben Brumfield
(CNN) — The presidential face off on foreign policy between President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney was geared to sway U.S. voters, but at points on the globe that the candidates argued over — from Libya to Pakistan to China — netizens, analysts and activists tuned in and weighed in.
After weeks of tough talk about China, the candidates made little mention of the growing superpower.
Netizens in China did not seem to take sides but instead used the debate to banter about the relationship with the United States.
“Whoever the winner, they are still all scoundrels and will not benefit China in any way,” a tweet by @SiShiSiNianDeSi read on China’s Weibo social network.
“China only factors into a small part of the debate. From these bits and pieces, any conclusions you draw is like that of a blind man feeling out an elephant,” said another post by @YouYiSuiYi.
China’s state news agency used the occasion to admonish whomever may become president to “tone down his get-tough-on-China rhetoric made along the campaign trail” and deal realistically with “China’s inevitable rise.”
Which candidate is elected seemed only to make a slight difference to China to analyst Wang Feng, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center in Beijing.
“Yes and no,” he said, when asked if there were significant differences in the candidates’ stances as concerns China.
“Both candidates, they made it clear that they want to treat China as a partner and that they want China to play by the rules,” Wang said. But Romney’s negative rhetoric stuck out, particularly that “he’ll designate China as a currency manipulator,” Wang said.
He found Romney’s idea that China could not enter into a trade war with the United States as a reaction to tough measures from Washington because of the already existing trade imbalance “a very simple calculation.”
“The decisions to be made in Beijing here will not only be based on the trade volumes but on domestic political concerns,” he said.
But Wang advised that keeping up pressure on China about trade issues has been effective, particularly in the area of copyright.
“People start to use copyrighted materials, and people started to pay more and more respect to intellectual property,” he said. Calls by the U.S. and international agencies to do so have “certainly played a role.”
Afghanistan and Pakistan
In Pakistan, Romney’s comments on the country’s nuclear weapons program raised some ire.
“Pakistan and the U.S. have an old friendship, and it’s disappointing to hear that Mitt Romney brought this relationship down to one that is purely based on Pakistan being a country with 100 nuclear warheads and counting,” said Naveed Chaudhry, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari.
Chaudhry said he wishes the United States would recognize what Pakistan has done for the war on terror.
Raza Rumi, director of the the think tank the Jinnah Institute, said it does not much matter who is president.
“Both candidates made reference to drone strikes and said they would continue,” he said. “Pakistani public opinion is really swelling against the drone strikes.”
Rumi was also disappointed there was no mention of a long-term strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. “I can understand at the moment the American public wants the government to exit from Afghanistan, but surely there should be a strategy for that, because we have suffered once in the 1990s with that void, when Afghanistan was left (by the Soviets).”
Tweets out of Kabul, Afghanistan, indicated that viewers there felt left out of the debate.
“So who won the debate today? I know who lost. Afghans. Little mention of war, except for w/drawal. Differences not so different from e/o,” tweeted someone who went by the name Subel.
Another tweeter, Musa Mahmodi, wrote: “Watched the US presidential debate, nothing new on Afghanistan, they both do not seem understand this country.”
The port city of eastern Benghazi wants four more years Obama, one blogger said, who stayed up until 4:30 a.m. local time to watch the Monday night debate.
Although the candidates did not slug it out over the deadly September attack on the U.S. embassy in the city, Ruwida Ashour felt Romney disregarded the progress in her country.
Ashour already stood behind Obama, and nothing his challenger said changed her mind.
She believes Obama has brought more stability to the Middle East. “I’m just not sure what Romney will do.”
“He said Libya is just six million people, and we have to take care of Egypt,” which is much larger, she complained. As concerns Egypt, she said Romney misjudged the election victories by the Islamic party, the Muslim Brotherhood, as being a bad thing.
“It was the people’s choice,” Ashour said. She also found Romney’s plans to stop terror attacks “unrealistic,” saying that the issue was too complex to solve comprehensively.
Israel and Iran
Both candidates pledged to stand by Israel in the event of an attack by Iran. Between the two of them, Obama and Romney mentioned Iran 47 times.
In one of the debate’s notable zings, Romney pointed out that Obama did not visit Israel as president and left it out on a trip through the region.
This got noticed in Israel, said CNN’s Sara Sidner. There is some tension between Obama and Israeli Pesident Benjamin Netanyahu over how to handle Iran. But the two nations over the weekend kicked off a large military exercise, reiterating America’s unbending support for the Jewish state.
Policy towards Israel in the past has not changed much from one president to the next, Sidner said. There has not been much public reaction to the debate, which occurred in the middle of the night Israeli time.
The Iranian press has reported on the debate, but so far has not come out with criticism towards anything the candidates said.
CNN’s Jonathan Mann and journalist Saima Mohsin contributed to this report.
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