When it comes to Trump, most Chinese citizens would immediately associate him with his infamous joke on Twitter: “China built a wall, and guess how many Mexicans they have. Checkmate.” To tell the truth, almost no one in China considered Trump a viable Presidential candidate. In the primaries, he had been mostly an entertaining figure on Chinese national TV until he, to the world’s shock, became President-Elect of the United States. For people in China, it was simply unimaginable that someone with his temperament and language could lead a global superpower.
Some Chinese view Trump’s triumph with disgust since he negatively portrayed China as “circulating climate change conspiracy,” “ripping the US off,” and “stealing American manufacture jobs.” In his campaign, Trump consistently used China as a foil to incite hate and xenophobia. Although Trump’s claims successfully appeased a majority of poorly educated Caucasians, who ultimately voted Trump into the White House, they are unfounded and wildly exaggerated.
Other Chinese see Trump’s triumph as a call from the American people for change. They feel that Trump played a brilliant strategy by distancing himself from the established class of politicians, such as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Since the word “politics” in China is almost a synonym for “corruption” and “inefficiency,” most Chinese feel justified in seeing a businessman like Trump being elected the President in a political climate where people are widely frustrated by professional politicians. Some even expressed admiration for Trump: compared with his major contenders, he ran a successful campaign for a fraction of the cost conventionally thought to be required.
Most people in China are alarmed by the implications of Trump’s unexpected triumph. His promise to place heavy tariffs on imported Chinese products will put millions of Chinese suppliers out of business. As a largely export-based economy, China will be impaired by trade protectionism proposed by the US, China’s second-biggest trading partner. If a trade war with the US is inevitable, China will suffer more than the US in a tit-for-tat game.
Many hope that Trump’s reversal of TPP will leave a vacuum for China’s expansion in the South China Sea. With the absence of the US in the Asia-Pacific area, China will see an opportunity to exert its influence in regional economics and politics. It is now leading the drafting of a new TPP, which excludes the US. By offering a $9 billion loan-and-aid package to the Philippines, China is luring the US ally with increased promises of financial assistance and trade opportunities.
The world awaits Trump’s next move. Will he be a real game changer, fulfilling his promises, or will he fall prey to professional politics, reinforcing the established interests? Stay tuned.
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