China called it a “collapse” of the U.S. political system that would “destroy” America’s global image. Iran went with the “annihilation of Western democracy,” while Russia said the situation was proof the U.S. system is “no longer charting the course” for the world.
As the world came to grips with the clashes that consumed Washington this week, American adversaries were having a field day Thursday, pouncing on the opportunity to portray the U.S. as a hypocritical power facing crisis and decline.
The state-controlled press in China, which has felt the sting of constant criticism from the Trump administration, was filled with powerful imagery of an angry pro-Trump mobs ransacking one of the Western democracy’s most sacred buildings and commentary on the dysfunction and distrust in American politics.
“A landmark night in US history: Capitol riots nation’s Waterloo, destroy global image,” declared a top headline of the Global Times, which is closely tied to the ruling Communist Party.
The publication’s lead editorial chastised U.S. politicians for framing the “Capitol chaos as an attack on U.S. democracy, as if the country’s democracy is still intact.”
Even some U.S. voices were openly fretting that this week’s events presented a propaganda windfall for the country’s adversaries.
“China’s laughing. They’re loving this tonight,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said in the floor debate just hours after demonstrators had been cleared from the chamber.
“In Beijing, they’re high-fiving,” Mr. Rubio said, “because they point to this and say, ‘This is proof that the future belongs to China; America’s in decline.’” Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei were also rejoicing in “what’s happening to ‘The Great Satan,’” Mr. Rubio added.
Longtime Council on Foreign Relations President Richard N. Haass tweeted after Wednesday’s events that “it will be a long time before we can credibly advocate for the rule of law. … This is a domestic crisis [with] enormous [foreign policy] impact.”
In Moscow, the head of Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, declared the era of global “celebration of democracy is over.”
“This is, alas, actually the bottom, I say this without a hint of gloating,” Mr. Kosachev said, according to Reuters. “America is no longer charting the course, and therefore has lost all its rights to set it. And especially to impose it on others.”
Officials in China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying suggesting that Washington had lost the moral high ground to criticize Beijing over the tactics the government used to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.
She recalled in a press briefing in Beijing how U.S. figures like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, had described a temporary occupation of Hong Kong’s regional legislature by protesters as a “beautiful sight to behold.”
“If you still remember how some U.S. officials, lawmakers and media described what’s happened in Hong Kong, you can compare that with the words they’ve used to describe the scenes in Capitol Hill,” Ms. Hua said. “They all condemned it as ‘a violent incident’ and the people involved as ‘rioters,’ ‘extremists’ and ‘thugs’ who brought ‘disgrace.’”
“What’s the reason for such a stark difference in the choice of words? Everyone needs to seriously think about it and do some soul-searching on the reason.”
Foreign affairs analysts said it was inevitable that U.S. adversaries would seek to exploit this week’s events, particularly given the wealth of images and video capturing the clash between protesters and police and the violation of the seat of American democracy.
China’s leaders “will get lots of mileage from pictures of rioters storming the [Capitol],” Scott Kennedy, a senior China analysts with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, tweeted Thursday morning, even while noting that the protesters had been evicted and that the U.S. legislature had quickly returned to its debate deciding the 2020 presidential election.
“If Chinese could see tonight’s House of Rep debate whether the election was fair, with principled speeches on both sides, they’d know why I still feel lucky to live in a democracy,” he wrote.
Others took a more humorous approach, noting what they said was the U.S. propensity to intervene in the domestic matters of other countries which exhibited the same political instability.
Mohamad Safa, Lebanon’s permanent representative to the United Nations, scored a lot of retweets Thursday with his observation that, “if the United States saw what the United States is doing in the United States, the United States would invade the United States to liberate the United States from the tyranny of the United States.”
• Bill Gertz and Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.