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Through their eyes – how the rest of the world views the United States government shutdown

The United States Capitol

The United States Capitol

So how does the rest of the world see the United States government shutdown? From the outside, do we appear to be a bunch of buffoons too intent on losing face at the expense of productive legislative discussion? Is the shutdown feared as a threat to the world economy or as a precursor to the apocalypse? Or does the rest of the world simply not care about the private problems of the United States and our government leaders’ inability to work together? Below is a collection of news snippets from countries around the world which mention or discuss the shutdown of the United States government.


Indian business executives told the Voice of America they could not understand how a developed country like the U.S. could shut down its government because of a legislative impasse. One Indian citizen tweeted, “I’m in India, and my driver and translator are laughing at U.S. government shutdown. So much for world’s great superpower. It’s closed.”


Surprisingly (for me anyway), China’s reporting on the shutdown of the United States government was very stoic and to the point. Voice of America interviewed Professor Chen Qi at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, who “opined that if this had happened in another country, it might be more problematic, but he trusts that the maturity of the U.S. government and American politicians will ‘have the wisdom to come to a consensus and solve this issue smoothly,’ especially since they have been down this road numerous times previously.”

“US government shutdown makes Chinese tourists sad” wrote Want China Times.

The United Kingdom

“America shuts down,” blared The Daily Mail, Britain’s most notorious tabloid. “It is a risk to the world economy if the US can’t properly sort out its spending plans,” reported by BBC Radio 4. “Americans sneeze and Brits catch the flu,” wrote David Blanchflower in The Independent.

“For most of the world, a government shutdown is very bad news – the result of revolution, invasion or disaster. Even in the middle of its ongoing civil war, the Syrian government has continued to pay its bills and workers’ wages. That leaders of one of the most powerful nations on earth willingly provoked a crisis that suspends public services and decreases economic growth is astonishing to many…Now, as the latest shutdown crisis plays out, policymakers in other nations are left to ponder the worldwide impact of the impasse.”

“There is a frustrating tendency in American political reporting to adopt a position of “both sides-ism” – as in, “both sides” are equally to blame for the nation’s chronic political dysfunction. That the U.S. will have come to such a pass – for no reason other than the extremism of the Republican Party – is an important reminder of who is blame for the governing dysfunction that has come to define the U.S. democracy today” writes The Guardian.


Russia of course bent their headlines.  “The ‘Elephants’ Are Robbing the U.S. Government,” read a headline in the government-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The state television broadcaster Vesti cautioned, “The U.S. government may be left penniless on Tuesday.”

Meanwhile, in the newspaper Kommersant, readers of an article headlined “The USA Has Been Left Without a Government” reacted sarcastically to the news of the shutdown: “For the ‘Good’ Empire, this sort of clown show is shameful. The debt ceiling of course will be raised, but the USA has unambiguously damaged its image yet again,” a reader named Esergn wrote. “It’s better for Obama to work things out with Congress than trying to start a war in Syria.”


One Egyptian tweeted, “Lol government shut down sounds like something Egypt would do” while another tweeted “If the #US can do a #shutdown, why were they giving the #Egypt-ian people hard time when we were doing a #Restart?”


La Repubblica’s Washington explained the US government shutdown in terms anyone could understand: “Washington is the heart and brain of the federal government that extends its nerve endings throughout the world. Yesterday, the 1st of October, the brain went into a coma. The heart is still beating slowly, just enough to survive.”


Australia offered a bit of helpful advice: “Just fire the whole government like Australia did in 1975.” The Australian blamed the Republican party and wrote, “Using Obamacare as the battering ram in the Republican campaign against the President is both irresponsible and damaging for the U.S. and the global economy.”


US officials “are facing the unthinkable prospect of shutting down the government as they squabble over the inconsequential accomplishment of a 10-week funding extension” wrote The News.


Brazil dug deep in their assessment of the situation.  “There is this sense that the shutdown is a symptom of a larger national decline. Talking to people you get the sense that the U.S. is no longer considered the most serious country in the world, that an extreme right wing group is running things, and that this is what you get in a capitalist system. Right or wrong, that’s the perception.”


Malaysian is apparently confused  over the entire situation.  News outlet Awani ran a piece entitled, “US shutdown leaves the world scratching its head.”


Der Spiegel Online proclaimed, “A superpower has paralyzed itself.”

The Zeit newspaper blamed a “handful of radicals,” stating, “a small group of uncompromising Republican ideologues in the House of Representatives are principally responsive for this disaster. They are not only taking their own party to the brink, but the whole country. Unfortunately the leadership of this party has neither had the courage nor the backbone to put them in their place.”


France’s Le Monde called the shutdown “grotesque” and noted that American cemeteries in France will be closed.  On the editorial page, Le Monde dramatically lamented, “Jefferson, wake up, they’ve gone crazy!” “This Republic was founded on a majority opinion of centrists from both major parties of the country…” the paper said. “Over the years, this has stalled. American democracy works worse and worse.” The idea that ‘‘on a given date, at a specific time, overnight, the state may be partly ‘disconnected’ would appear to be unthinkable. Something from science fiction, or simple madness.”


The Irish Times wrote: “And the deadlocked battle between Congress and president reflects one of the dangers of a system in which rival centers of power, each claiming democratic legitimacy, can hold each other in check – result , total inertia.”


A user in Canada tweeted, “Eh America, were still open here in Canada. Come on up to the igloo if you like hockey on the TV and drinking real beer.”


Lebanon reminded us that it could be worse:

Lebanon picture regarding the shutdown of the United States government

While Lebanon’s Daily Star pinned blame for the shutdown on Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who he says is “on track to be the worst speaker in modern American history. Unable to control his own caucus, negotiate effectively with the president or pass legislation, he flounders in office – a likable man who is utterly ineffective.”


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