As the world prepares for a change in leadership in the United States, one important country that is waiting and watching with interest is China.  People in China are hopeful his election will mean good things, especially for the Chinese-American relationship.  

An American Embassy-hosted presidential election party in Beijing gave Chinese people the rare chance to vote and also provided a good photo opportunity. 

Most mock votes went to Obama

Roughly three-fourths of the nearly 300 mock votes cast at the party went for President-elect Barack Obama.

21-year-old student Wang Dian said she hopes the new U.S. president will have a friendly policy toward China.

She said she hopes Mr. Obama will realize the importance of maintaining good relations and trade ties with China.  She also hopes he can help lead the United States out of a financial crisis, which she believes would be good for the world economy.

Another student - 23-year-old Xu Zhen - had a more specific concern.

She said she hopes that it becomes easier for Chinese students to get a visa to study in the United States. 

China issues warning to new US administration
The Chinese government welcomed Mr. Obama's election.  But foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang also warned the new U.S. administration to, in his words, "properly handle" contentious issues.

Qin said the Chinese government wants to increase mutual understanding, trust and cooperation on the basis of the Three Joint Communiques, which are the diplomatic documents normalizing relations between the two countries.  The spokesman said the two nations should use these as the basis to deal with what he called "sensitive issues." 

Taiwan is sensitive issue
As China and the United States prepare to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations in 2009, one of the most sensitive Sino-American issues has been Taiwan.

China considers the separately-governed island part of its territory and has vowed to retake it by force, if necessary.  Although Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, U.S. law commits the United States to help Taiwan defend itself.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Beijing's Renmin University, said Taiwan may no longer be the thorny Sino-American problem it used to be.

Shi said Taiwan is not likely to be the biggest or most important issue between China and the United States, because Beijing has improved relations with Taipei.

This is confirmed by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who said an Obama Administration can be optimistic that cross-strait relations will continue to get better.   

"They understand that we are very sincerely executing the policy of peace and prosperity.  So, I do see good opportunity for Taipei and Washington, not only to restore high-level trust, but also to build new bonds of friendship in the process," he said.

Trade, human rights, environment also important

Professor Shi said he expects other issues to take up more of president-elect Obama's time.  These issues include disputes on trade, human rights, Tibet and the environment.  

Human rights and democracy are two matters Washington consistently raises with Beijing.

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar Tao Wenzhao said China is taking a go-slow approach to democracy.

Tao said, although Deng Xiaoping predicted that China is likely to have an election in 2050, he is not sure if it will happen by then.  The Chinese scholar said he is confident China will eventually have its own national elections - just not any time soon.