Recently, a friend of mine asked what the Chinese take on Trump is. I’ve only lived in China for eight years, am not exactly Chinese, and wouldn’t presume to speak for China. Nevertheless, I offered my opinions on what I’ve heard, read and gleaned – shared here for what it’s worth…
Most of the Chinese folks I know regard Trump with amusement. When my friends here tease about how screwed up the American democratic system is to permit such a farce, I gently remind them that the fact they know more American political dirt than Chinese political dirt speaks to the strength of the American system (in particular, our flawed-but-free press). And mainland Chinese people, from ordinary Zhou’s to officials, are still eager to offshore their money to the USA, buy property in the USA, send their kids to school in the USA, and obtain residency in the USA. As screwed up as we are, we’re still apparently a good deal. 😉
Earlier in the Republican primary cycle, there was a surprising amount of admiration expressed for Trump in China chat forums as “a real man” (mainland Chinese people generally put a premium on strength, or at least the appearance of strength), and a clear preference for Donald over Hillary, who is resented in China for the USA’s “Pivot to Asia” and her tough stance on the PRC (the Secretary of State needs to be the President’s teeth, so her words were usually sharper than Obama’s). However, Trump’s comments about China “raping” the USA in business (while he continues producing his clothing line in China – making him either pimp or whore, not sure which) eventually penetrated the Chinese consciousness and soured public opinion on him.
At the official level, Trump’s ascendancy is employed by PRC state media as an example of the “failed American democratic system”. Reading between the lines of mainland Chinese news reports and editorials (which are more or less the same thing), you get the sense that Chinese officials are on the one hand pleased that the world’s most powerful nation could find itself (mis)guided by an isolationist buffoon like Trump – much in the same way that Putin is clearly delighted at the prospect of a US president who can be baited with tweets and wanked with flattery. On the other hand, it’s clear that Chinese officials are unsettled by the prospect of Trump’s tiny hands on the nuclear football. Trump could be to China what Kim Jong Un is to the USA.