Everyone seems to have an opinion about Donald Trump, and China is no exception. So what are Chinese people saying about the US presidential candidate?
Well, feelings among the Chinese population are mixed. While some admire Trump’s outspokenness and persona, others think he’s a hypocrite. And according to Quartz, some prefer Trump to Hillary Clinton because they believe Clinton would be tougher on China.
After all, Donald Trump had praised the Chinese government’s response to the Tiananmen Square massacre. In a 1990 interview with Playboy, Trump said, “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”
At a Republican Debate in March 2016, Trump echoed those comments, saying, “That is a strong powerful government that put it down with strength. They kept down the riot.”
Yes, “riot.” That’s what Trump is calling a gathering of unarmed protesters. Presumably the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong was also a “riot.”
After Trump’s comments, a group of Chinese human rights lawyers released an open letter criticizing Trump for his “envy of the brutal regime that caused such a horrific massacre.”
And what do Chinese state-run media say about Trump? In March, several media published a slideshow entitled “The Erratic Trump is actually a winner in life.” It started off by calling Trump a “fuerdai”. That’s slang for “second-generation rich”, the offspring of Communist Party leaders and other wealthy elite. Most Chinese people dislike the fuerdai (except, obviously, for the Fuerdai) As Bloomberg puts it, they’re seen as more tasteless versions of Paris Hilton.
That’s a low blow, but not the worst. Who else is criticizing Trump, without the slightest hint of irony? Why it’s state-run Global Times! They called Donald Trump, “A racist and extremist,” “Big-mouthed,” and “anti-traditional.”
But the Communist Party doesn’t actually hate Donald Trump. They love Trump—in the same very specific way Trump loves China.
That is, China is the perfect boogeyman in US election politics.
Likewise, for Chinese media, Trump is the perfect way to attack the evil American boogeyman: democracy.
For years, the Communist Party has taken the line that Chinese people simply aren’t ready for democracy. That’s why they should be under authoritarian rule instead. And now, the Communist Party is using Trump to make their point. They highlight fistfights at Trump rallies as proof that democracy is chaotic, messy, and sometimes even violent. Which is why Chinese people need the strong hand of big brother to choose the leaders of their loving government for them.
So in many ways, Trump’s presidential run is a huge boon to the Chinese Communist Party. They use him, and the chaos of this US election cycle, as proof that grass isn’t really greener on the other side. And considering China’s pollution, that’s saying something.