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Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S. election was greeted in Europe and Asia with positive headlines and high expectations.
This story first appeared in the November 6, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Obama looks outward and his election won’t just benefit America, it will benefit the world,” said London-based designer Nicole Farhi.
Loulou de la Falaise, who wore an Obama pin around town during Paris Fashion Week, called his election a “relief” after eight years of George W. Bush that left many French feeling alienated from America.
“It’s really amazing,” she said. “I cried when I watched [Obama’s] speech.”
Asked what she would say to Obama if she met him, Stella McCartney said: “Please live up to everyone’s expectations. There’s a lot of weight on your shoulders. Take America back to being the great country it used to be.”
Diesel honcho Renzo Rosso said, “It’s an important victory for the entire world. Obama represents freshness and the right alternative to a world that is too institutional and that needs real change.”
A buoyant Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, summing up the jubilant mood across France, said, “It was like it was our election. Everything is linked. When hope returns, the enthusiasm of our customer is the same.”
In an editorial in Le Figaro, which came out with a special edition at 4 a.m. to announce the outcome, columnist Guillaume Tabard said Obama’s victory reflected France’s desire to stop the war in Iraq, repair the economy and emphasize social diversity.
“Mister President” was the title of Le Monde’s 12-page supplement that included a photo journey of Obama’s road to achieve what the intellectual daily called a “Democratic tidal wave.” It also included a story devoted to Michelle Obama, “the youngest first lady since Jackie Kennedy.”
The left-wing newspaper Liberation published a 16-page supplement titled “We have a dream.” The daily is also preparing a 40-page special edition to be published today containing reactions from people living everywhere from French villages and suburbs to cities in China in order to assess “the Obama effect.”
In Germany, Die Welt said, “All over the world, everyone is projecting their hopes and expectations on this man…. No one, even Obama, can work all these wonders.” The Bild-Zeitung, a tabloid that is required reading for German politicos, put Obama on its front page. “A historic day for the whole world,” it wrote in small print. And, in caps, “These are the problems he now has to tackle…boost the economy; safeguard our savings; achieve peace in Iraq; fight for the weak; close Guantanamo, and save the earth with us. Mister President.” It concluded, “Yes, you can!”
In Russia, news of Obama’s victory was drowned out by an address Wednesday from President Dmitry Medvedev, in which he once again criticized the U.S. for leading the world into a political crisis and economic black hole. New president or not, Russia’s official line is still strident.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last head of the Soviet Union, sounded a positive note, though, when he said, “Russia has followed these elections like never before. This speaks to hopes that a new U.S. administration will lead to change.”
In Japan, Nobuyuki Ota, president of Issey Miyake, said he’s ready to leave behind the “terrible situation in the global market” and be hopeful for a serious change.
“We hope we are able to actually feel the drastic change Mr. Obama is conducting. We’re very eager to see reasonable foreign exchange and a peaceful stock market as soon as possible,” Ota said. “I love America, the country full of hope and democracy, and this result will make the country stronger than ever without doubt.”
China reacted to Obama’s election with enthusiasm. Though state-run media have avoided any in-depth coverage of the election, the government’s newspapers reacted to the results with high praise. President Hu Jintao said a closer relationship between Beijing and Washington would be “for the benefit of Chinese and American people and people around the world,” according to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry’s Web site.
Shi Yinghong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University, said trade, Tibet and the financial crisis are the three key issues in the Sino-American relationship. Shi said, “The U.S. wants to strengthen the economic cooperation with China, but China also has its own interests.”