S&P's downgrade of U.S. debt on Friday got immediate reaction stateside. But the historical first for the U.S. isn't just American news, setting off a purely American blame game. Other countries are also watching, some with morbid curiosity as a superpower stumbles, some frankly panicked about the economic repercussions worldwide. Here's a quick sample of foreign media coverage.
France: Who's Next?
Le Monde's main news article on the downgrade, when it happened, divided the AFP material into sections under the following subheadings: "'We must do better'" (a quote from White House press secretary Jay Carney); "A historical first"; "A 'calculation error,' according to Washington" (the quote is from the Treasury Department, which finds S&P's downgrade rationale faulty); "A decision which 'comes at the worst moment for Europe'"; and "Beijing blasted 'Uncle Sam, crippled with debts." Le Monde also ran a number of other stories on the downgrade, including one on "the other credit agencies not yet ready to follow S&P" and one entitled "the Obama administration goes on the offensive against Standard & Poor's." Meanwhile, an economics professor is quoted in Libération, another French publication, as wondering: "After the downgrading of the U.S. debt, who else 'will find themselves in the credit agencies' radar?'" Le Nouvel Observateur likewise focuses on the European implications of the American downgrade.
Germany: Ready, Set, Full Coverage!
Below, the opening to Christoph von Marschall's commentary for Die Zeit:
Let's get a little more stark: here's the home page of Germany's Die Welt as of 9 a.m. ET Monday morning. Clearly, the downgrade and its implications are the stories of the day.
China: U.S. Is 'a Deadbeat to Beat All Deadbeat Nations'
Given how much the Chinese media tend to rejoice at Western woes, you'd expect a lot of rhetoric on the debt downgrade. It's there. The government's Xinhua news agency published some commentary on Sunday that included the following: "Disappointingly, instead of reflecting on themselves and sitting down to fix problems in a cooperated way, the Democrats and Republicans in Washington are questioning the creditability of the downgrade ruling and blaming each other for the ever-first shame of slipping out top credit rating club."
Monday morning saw fresh coverage. This particular bit actually seems pretty matter-of-fact and swagger-free:
The United States raising its debt ceiling is a double-edged sword to China. In the short term, the US economy avoids suffering from a "double dip" and introduces the third round of the quantitative easing policy, which will reduce the global financial market risk. This is conducive to China's steady economic growth because the United States is one of China's most important export markets and is also conducive to the security of China's U.S. dollar assets and keeps the exchange rate of the RMB against the U.S. dollar stable.
In the long term, the current dispute between Republicans and Democrats on the debt ceiling warns China that the United States will ignore the interests of creditors for the needs of domestic political struggles.
That's not to say the piece is totally gloat-free. Immediately following the above passage on the site, we get this: "After watching Congress play politics and care not a whit about upholding the honor of United States, can the world assume that America is not about to become a deadbeat to beat all deadbeat nations in history?"
The Arab World: We've Got Other Things to Worry About
Notably, as of Monday morning the home page for the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi was debt-free. Another daily, Al Hayat, is similarly preoccupied with Arab Spring issues and so forth. In fact, the International section leads with a totally different story about the U.S.: a piece on the investigation into the downed helicopter in Afghanistan, which the paper ties back to SEAL participation in the Bin Laden raid.