Outside the Bubble: How foreign media covered the shutdown

 /  Oct. 22, 2013, 10:49 p.m.


Last week, after sixteen days of shutdown, the United States government reopened. While the American media began to exercise its penchant for self-congratulation, the world witnessed a superpower’s squabbling and dysfunction.

Some foreign media outlets have been covering the US government shutdown a great deal. Iran’s PressTV, for example, has an entire page of its website devoted solely to American politics. The Botswana Daily News, on the other hand, has reported very little.

The shutdown has been covered in many different ways. Some find it humorous that the world’s superpower does not have an operational government. Others are looking at the implications of an economic downturn for their countries. Still others are simply furious that the United States cannot get its act together.

Lately, Washington, DC, has become the butt of many political jokes in Europe. France’s Le Monde has submitted a plea: “Jefferson, wake up, they’ve gone crazy!” In the leftist journal, Libération, Nicolas Demorand believes that the government shutdown is something “science fictional or simply mad.” According to an article in The Guardian, the hours leading up to the shutdown were “straight out of Hollywood,” with “metaphorical tumbleweed blowing down the corridors of Capitol Hill.”

Despite the humor that many see in the state of American politics, others are more concerned about what the shutdown means for their countries. Chosun Media of South Korea has assured readers that the US will not decrease the number of troops deployed along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The Palestinian News Network has reported that the shutdown may affect funding for Israel. Political stakeholders aside, a British survey found that over two-thirds of Britons following the shutdown do not believe that it will impact their country’s economy. Citizens from other countries, however, are not so optimistic. Germany’s right-leaning Die Welt wrote that if the conflicts remain unsolved, economic problems will escalate around the world and will directly affect German exports. China also has legitimate reasons to be worried about the US debt as it holds $1.28 trillion in US Treasury securities.

Given the extent to which the government shutdown has impacted the rest of the world, many foreign publications have expressed disbelief that the American government could let a shutdown happen. British adults who were asked to describe the shutdown in one word most frequently said, “stupid,” “disaster,” “shambles,” “ridiculous,” “irresponsible,” and “disgrace.” A writer for China’s Xinhua News wrote that “it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.” Another Chinese publication, The People’s Daily, said that the United States is using “its domestic policy to kidnap the global economy.”

Regardless of how people feel, though, most of them are blaming the Republican Party. Nuremberg's Nachrichten wrote that the Republicans are “once again crippling the United States.” Further criticism from Germany comes from Cologne’s Stadt-Anzieger newspaper, which claimed that the Republican party is dedicated solely to advancing “their pure doctrine.” The Russian Gazette wrote an article titled, “Elephants are robbing the US government.” A writer for a Greek publication went so far as to refer to the extremist faction of the Republican Party as one filled with “vainglorious political windbags” who are also “[undermining] their own party.” A Canadian author has described Speaker Boehner as “the man at the centre of the U.S. government shutdown.”

Some publications, however, believe that both Democrats and Republicans are to blame. Munich’s newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung writes that both sides are at fault. The publication states that those supporting the shutdown, “the voters, the parties and the politicians,” are destroying American democracy, thus the country is already “politically bankrupt.”

Also in Eastern European, a Belarusian Political Science professor Sergi Kizimaexpressed the opinion that the United States’ dominance over the world is coming to an end and the US will have to start facing more and more of these sorts of issues.

Even though Congress has reached a deal to raise the debt ceiling until mid-February, and finance the government through January 15, the full impact of the shutdown is continuing to unfold. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, offers an interesting perspective that would bring this all to a conclusion (of sorts) rather swiftly: In his country, when parliament is unable to reach a consensus on the budget, everyone is automatically put up for reelection.

The image featured in this article was taken by Jon S. The original image can be found here

Chelsea Fine, Ellen Rodnianski


<script type="text/javascript" src="//downloads.mailchimp.com/js/signup-forms/popup/embed.js" data-dojo-config="usePlainJson: true, isDebug: false"></script><script type="text/javascript">require(["mojo/signup-forms/Loader"], function(L) { L.start({"baseUrl":"mc.us12.list-manage.com","uuid":"d2157b250902dd292e3543be0","lid":"aa04c73a5b"}) })</script>