Chinese watching U.S. election with interest

Chinese watching election closely

(CBS News) No matter what happens on Election Day, the next president is sure to have a major impact in other countries -- including in China. That's why many Chinese have been following the campaign very closely.

Both candidates have spoken about China during the presidential campaign, and in this bitterly close race, about the only thing President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney seem to agree on is a harder line toward China on trade and jobs.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama has said, "We are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else."

And Romney has said, "On day one, I will label China a currency manipulator."

It's aimed at an American audience, but with the Internet and satellite TV, China is watching, too. Few follow more closely than Yang Rui. On international affairs, he is the English-language voice of China's state-run TV on a show called "Dialogue."

Rui told CBS News, "And all the Chinese media, if you look at the front page stories, they talk about how the two presidential candidates accuse China, bash China."

Millions of young Chinese also are hooked on the American election. CBS News met three self-proclaimed political junkies: Liu Jinyang, a journalist and students, Wang Hanyi and Zhan Wu.

Asked if the current rhetoric has been bashing China, Wu said, "Yes. Everyone knows the iPhone and the iPad, but without cheap labor supplies in China, how can they produce them in such a low price? It's impossible.

They're not getting their information from the official voices on state TV. They're getting it -- mostly unfiltered -- from the Internet.

Hanyi said, "We'd just like to know what's happening on the other side of the world."

Guan Xin, 29, is an English teacher. He downloads and translates political speeches and shares them on the Internet. His convention downloads got hundreds of millions of hits. He said, "It is the era of the Internet, so people can get their own access."

Xin's online followers don't like all the criticism of China, but they do like the openness of the American system.

Jinyang said, "The American election is open, energetic."

Xin said, "At least they can fight for their own interests. At least they can fight for the people."

Rui doesn't speak for the Communist Party of China, but as a party member, he knows the party line. Rui said, "The U.S. democracy. It's very beautiful. It's charming, but it has many shortcomings and weaknesses."

CBS News' Bill Whitaker told Rui, "The American voters get to poke the guy who wants to be the president and ask him a pointed question 'What are you going to do for me?' The Chinese people don't get a chance to do that with their leaders."

Rui responded, "I respect the American democracy. But why (did) China prosper as a sole major economy after the financial meltdown? It's because of the effective leadership that we exercised."

Two days after Americans choose a president, China's Communist Party chooses new leaders for the country. The Chinese people won't have a vote.

For Bill Whitaker's full report, watch the video in the player above.