As the Olympics drew to a close, I noticed the China Daily office getting quieter and quieter. The TV's were no longer on, continually updating with the latest competitions and victories. The other day I suddenly wondered what was going on when from across the news room, in the Chinese international department, I heard American-English on the TV and saw them all gathered around watching intently.
Slowly people began to realize something interesting was happening and all the TVs came to life, including the one nearest my desk. Imagine my surprise when there on the screen was a movie about Ted Kennedy, brother of former United States President John F. Kennedy. As I realized this was the US Democratic National Convention I began to get excited.
Let me explain. I have an interest in politics and would argue we all should. Not only does politics affect everyone, but most of us engage in subtle politics during our day to day lives, whether it's at work or in our spare time. More specifically I have an interest in American politics. Although I do not live in the 'Land of the Free and Home of the Brave', I am affected by what goes on there. As the current resident super-power and most well-known example of Western culture, what they do affects us all.
As such, this election is extremely important for the world, potentially perception altering on a par with the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994 in a South Africa just recovering from apartheid. If Barack Obama is elected, as I hope he will be, he is likely to change the United States, and potentially the world, to a huge extent.
What really surprised me was that despite recent riffs in Sino-US relations due to accusations of human rights abuses and jibes about China's suitability to host the Olympics, my Chinese colleagues were glued to the TV. When Michelle Obama came on stage after a moving video about her life and a speech by her brother, they were mesmerised.
She spoke about her husband, her country and, most importantly, about Obama's message of hope, equality and hard work. Some of my Chinese colleagues clapped with the crowd as she spoke of Hillary Clinton working hard for all Americans, understanding the message of thanks and subtle politicking. When Barack himself then joined in via video link they laughed out loud as he joked about asking Michelle out many times before she agreed, saying that proved he would be a good president since he was obviously persistent.
So, why were my colleagues so interested? The best answer I could come up with was that Obama with his message of hope for a better world is someone we all feel we can relate to.
John McCain on the other hand, is an Americans' American, a patriot and a war hero. I am not American so this means very little to me. The two countries I have grown up in, South Africa and New Zealand, have their own war heroes, as does China. My Chinese colleagues and I feel no patriotism towards America for obvious reasons. McCain has different aims to my own and therefore different motivations. I do not understand him, and yet Obama I feel I understand and can relate to his message, and I think so do my colleagues. Black and white, Chinese and Kiwi, we would all like to live in a more peaceful, more egalitarian world.
This is why Obama has the interest and support of the international population. We feel that in someway as much as he represents America, he represents the America we want to see and live with.
What this election shows is that change is possible. Already we have seen the first black presidential nominee. Obama calls it the ‘Audacity of Hope' and I am just beginning to fully understand what he means by that.
My hope is that our interest will not be in vain. Here we have a China that is becoming increasingly more open and accepting of other cultures. It's a country that has certainly improved. My hope is that the West will reach out to this new China and talk to it as the equal it obviously is. I could see this happening with Obama.
If Barack Obama wins this election, there is the chance he will make a better, more inclusive world not held back by the standoffs and disagreements we see today.
Audacious this hope may be, but dreams have been known to come true.