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Why people around the world are following the U.S. presidential campaign


People around the world are following the U.S. presidential campaign and wondering what November's results will mean for them. So throughout this election year, we're going to check in with different parts of the world, beginning with three of them right now. NPR's Carrie Kahn covers South America from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. NPR's Rob Schmitz covers Europe from Berlin and John Ruwitch, based in Shanghai, covers China. Welcome to all of you.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.



INSKEEP: Rob, what's the difference to Europeans who wins in November?

SCHMITZ: Well, this is one region of the world where the outcome of this election is very important. And the difference between the two candidates for the political establishment here is stark. Governments throughout Europe are still a bit rattled by Donald Trump's comments about NATO from a few weeks ago. Just to remind our listeners, at a campaign rally, he complained about NATO member states in Europe who are not spending at least 2% of their GDP on their own defense. This is a benchmark that NATO asks of its members but...


SCHMITZ: ...One that many European countries have ignored for years. And Trump told supporters that he thought Russia should have its way with whichever countries were not spending that much. You know, for a presidential candidate of NATO's most powerful member state to say something like this is jarring for Europe, where there's a war raging on its eastern fringe and where many NATO member states, especially along that eastern fringe, are already worried about being possibly the next victim of a Russian invasion. So when Trump said that, I think it triggered something akin to almost like a PTSD flashback of what it was like for Europe to deal with Trump in his first term in office. This was a U.S. president who seemed hell bent on doing away with the international agreements and general brotherhood that make up the transatlantic partnership. So...


SCHMITZ: ...I think it's safe to say that much of Europe would like to stick with Biden to maintain stability in what are increasingly unstable times for the continent.

INSKEEP: It's understandable that Biden would be seen as a more traditional choice. Are they entirely confident with Biden's leadership, though?

SCHMITZ: I think at times there's been some disagreements with some of his policies, but I think overall, the support of Ukraine has been encouraging for much of Europe and the political establishment here.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's come back across the Atlantic to the Western Hemisphere. Carrie Kahn in Rio de Janeiro, how's the election look from there?

KAHN: It's definitely being talked about here. I heard a lot about it, Steve. Recently, I went to this huge demonstration in Sao Paulo in support of the former far-right president here, Jair Bolsonaro. There were more than 100,000 people there. Bolsonaro is a big fan of Trump. They have very much facing quite the same similarities now. The legal and political situations that they're facing mirror each other. Bolsonaro has several legal investigations pending, including the most serious that he conspired to overturn his reelection loss in 2022. The right in Brazil took a big blow after that loss and his subsequent legal troubles, he's been barred from politics till 2030, but the crowd at this march was very energized, and many just told me that was because of Trump and they felt he was making a comeback and helping the global right, and they are watching him in this U.S. election closely. I did see a lot of make Brazil great again hats in the crowd.

INSKEEP: Wow. OK. Aren't there also a lot of far-right candidates who are prevailing in other elections in other South American countries?

KAHN: Well, in neighboring Argentina, the far-right libertarian there, Javier Milei, just took office. He's also very energized by Trump's campaign. He was just invited, along with other Latin Americans on the far right, to the gathering of the Conservative Political Action Committee, CPAC, outside Washington, D.C. He got a very warm reception there for, you know, he denounces abortion, communism and what he says are the evils of a social justice agenda.

INSKEEP: OK. Now let's go across the Pacific and talk about China, which is where NPR's John Ruwitch is based. John, how are Chinese leaders viewing the prospect of another Trump presidency or more of a Biden presidency?

RUWITCH: Well, I mean, one of the lenses through which this whole thing is seen is the obvious competition, this supercharged competition between China and the United States. They have different political systems. And that competition, to a certain extent, is this competition of ideas, competition of systems. I mean, China has been explicit about the sort of superiority of the Chinese system in many points in the recent past. So when it comes to Trump, the America first attitude is appealing to China in some ways because of the opportunity that it creates for China.

One of Trump's nicknames for several years now has been (non-English language spoken), which roughly is nation builder Trump. And that's not because he's building the U.S., it's because he's helping China become great. But Trump radically changed the tone in U.S.-China relations. He launched a trade war. He's threatening 60% tariffs on products from China across the board if he's elected. So, you know, in the short term, for a country, China, that's trying to get its economy back on its feet and puts a premium on stability, there are risks with Trump.

INSKEEP: OK. So they see Trump as someone who is dragging down the United States but may also try to drag them down. How have they viewed Joe Biden, their adversary for the last several years?

RUWITCH: It's complicated, right? Beijing has been pretty bitter about the Biden presidency 'cause on China policy, he basically took a hand off from Trump and kept running in the same direction. Tariffs are still in place, and Biden's been more articulate about the competitive nature of the relationship and arguably more organized in terms of crafting domestic and foreign policies to meet the challenge. But, you know, after three years of Biden, they kind of - the two sides get the contours of the relationship now that Biden represents relative stability.

INSKEEP: You know, guys, sometimes I cover Iran, where officials at an American election time will commonly say it doesn't matter who wins because they represent the same system, which is a reverse image of what Americans say about Iranian elections, by the way. But they essentially say, doesn't matter, they're still our enemy. It sounds like there are many countries in the world who feel that it really does matter this time who wins this election?

RUWITCH: I will say, for China, there is a difference - there's a material difference between Trump and Biden. But the Chinese attitude is similar to the Iranian in that respect. They emphasize the positives in the relationship. They talk about how the two countries, as the world's No. 1 and No. 2 economies, have a responsibility to the rest of the world to get along. If there's anything China has learned sort of from the Trump to Biden presidency transition that happened a few years ago, is that the anti-China sentiment in the U.S. is bipartisan. It's as strong as ever, and they're just sort of girding for whatever comes their way.

SCHMITZ: And I'll add something from Europe. I think that there's a big difference between who wins for Europeans. And, you know, we've got a war on European soil, and we've also got the rise of far-right political movements in Europe that I think a lot of European political leaders are worried about. And if Trump should win, I think that they would worry that that would give fuel to those movements.

INSKEEP: Carrie Kahn, you get the last word.

KAHN: For Latin Americans, of course, the United States is a huge partner, especially when it comes to trade. But top of the mind right now for a lot of people in South America is security and of course, the economy, but security and democracy. And they look to the United States for help on both.

INSKEEP: NPR's Carrie Kahn, Rob Schmitz and John Ruwitch. Thanks to all of you.

KAHN: You're welcome.

SCHMITZ: Thank you.

RUWITCH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: And we'll continue checking in with different parts of the world throughout this presidential election year.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
John Ruwitch is a correspondent with NPR's international desk. He covers Chinese affairs.