Chinese media have been closely following and reporting the American presidential election through social media over the past two days.
Although most media reports appear to be factual, they are not completely unbiased; their construction and tone reveal their attitude toward the newly-elected President Trump.
While most official Chinese state media reports put America’s new “unconventional” president in a subtle favorable light, economic newspaper The Observer responded with a critical view, while Sina Weibo netizens mostly responded with banter, with many of them expressing a favorable view of Trump presidency.
OFFICIAL STATE MEDIA
“What Chinese Americans Say About Trump’s Victory: ‘Now I can finally safely go to the toilet'”
State broadcaster CCTV News (@央视新闻) and People’s Daily (@人民日报, official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party) released the news of Trump’s victory as a factual newsflash, writing that Republican candidate Donald Trump has defeated Democrat candidate Hilary Clinton, and has become the 45th President of the United States of America.
Both news outlets used a relatively neutral image of Trump, who appears to be speaking in front of a red background.
Some Chinese media also compare the somewhat unexpected outcome of America’s elections to that of the Brexit referendum, after which voters later expressed regret over the outcome (the ‘Brexit regret‘).
Global Times (@环球时报, China’s state ‘tabloid’) is more explicit in its attitude towards Trump. Shortly after the election results were out, Global Times released an article titled “What Chinese Americans Say About Trump’s Victory: ‘Now I can finally safely go to the toilet’” (“特朗普赢了，美国华人怎么说？——终于可以安全上厕所了”).
The overall tone of the article shows a favorable view of Trump, as it features a female interviewee who expresses her joy that Trump will allegedly abandon Obama’s liberal policy for the LGBT [Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community, so that she “does not need to go to the same toilet as a man (..) who believes he is a woman.”
The article also features another interviewee who believes Trump will bring more equality in society due to his crusade against political correctness.
Two other Global Times articles argue that the victory of Trump, as a businessman who knows what pragmatism is, will not radically change the future of Sino-American relations. They also state that present-day China is steady and flexible enough to not to be affected by this presidential change (see: Refuse to Talk about South China See- what is Trump’s Attitude; Wholesale victory of Trump- a hard lash on traditional American politics).
Global Times uses a “strong” image of Trump for their news posts- one of them shows Trump holding his fist in a gesture of resolution and victory, with American flags on the background.
“American ordinary people are simple and closed-minded; they are not interested in international affairs and have very little knowledge about it.”
The Observer (观察 – influential Chinese economics newspaper backed by Shanghai think-tank) features a lengthy column about Trump, titled “Eight Reasons Why Trump Has the Last Laugh” (八大因素令特朗普笑到最后), written by commentator Song Luzheng (宋鲁郑). Different from the majority of reports from Chinese official media, the column suggests a general disapproval of Trump’s victory.
In the column, Song argues that Trump’s unexpected victory can be explained in various ways. He starts off by pointing out that as unlikely as Trump’s victory may be, considering his background and media portrayal, it statistically is unsurprising for the mere fact that it is very rare for American parties to win a presidential election after they have been the ruling party for the previous 8 years.
Song also speaks from his own personal experiences in the USA, saying that Trump’s triumph can be explained through the growing rich-poor divide that, for the first time in history, has made the American middle class a minority. This has led to huge changes in public opinion, Song argues. With people being dissatisfied with America’s current economic system, and the rise of terrorism and influx of illegal immigrants, it is mainly white people who support Trump, Song says: “I personally went to the American election (..) and those who publicly oppose Trump are black people and Muslims, while there are very few white people opposing him.”
The author goes on to say that America’s ‘one-person-one-vote’ democratic system cannot avoid the emergence of populist political figures, and he implicitly compares the current situation to that of Hitler being elected in the 1930s. He points out the dangers of democracy, stating: “To drive, you must have a driver’s license and understand the traffic laws. But the democratic system gives each person the power [to vote], but does not require the responsibility that comes with it.”
He further emphasizes this point by writing: “The last time I went to the United States I found the ordinary people to be very simple and closed-minded; they are not interested in international affairs and have very little knowledge about it. This creates the conditions for the rise of such characters as Trump.”
Song makes some clear points about Trump’s election in The Observer, but a poll underneath the article shows that the majority of readers do not agree with his stance, calling it “absurd.”
SOCIAL MEDIA REACTIONS
“Congratulations, it’s a boy!”
Many netizens understand Trump’s triumph, saying they support him: “This shows that the [rural] country overlays the cities, they’ve finally won national victory the revolutionary way,” one happy netizen responds.
“I speak for the entire Weibo population,” one netizen writes: “and I would like to express sincere congratulations, and would like to welcome you to Chinese social media.”
For a majority of Weibo users, the election outcome is a source of banter. Some commenters said: “Congratulations! It’s a boy!” Another netizen said: “Hi, I am Hillary, and now that I’ve lost I have no money to go home. Could someone wire me 2000 dollars?”
Xinhua (@新华网), the official media outlet of the People’s Republic of China, joined in the banter by publishing a humorous post on Weibo that asked whether American people would change their mind and be willing to exchange Trump for the three baby pandas that are leaving the USA for China.
“The American people would probably want to [trade in Trump], but we’d refuse,” one netizen responds. Another person commented: “If Trump would stay in the zoo, I’d be willing to!”
The humorous social media reactions in China about the Trump triumph are similar to those after Brexit, when netizens also used humour and entertainment to discuss the situation. We can expect more Trump memes and jokes to come up on Chinese social media in the coming few weeks.
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