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“Congratulations, It’s a Boy!” – China’s (Mixed) Reactions to President Trump’s Election Victory

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In the morning of November 9 (Beijing time), the whole world received the news of Donald Trump winning the American presidential election. What’s on Weibo offers an insight into Chinese responses to the election of American’s unconventional new president. From Chinese (official) media to Weibo’s netizens, the reactions to Trump’s triumph are favorable, critical, humorous, but most of all: mixed.

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.

Image: from People’s Daily Sina Weibo account.

Image: from People’s Daily Sina Weibo account.

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).

Image of Trump as used by Global Times.

Image of Trump as used by Global Times.

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.

 

THE OBSERVER

“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-observer

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!”

 

The American elections became the number one trending topic (#美国大选#) on Sina Weibo on November 9.

number-one

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.

xinhua

Title: “American Netizens wish to Exchange Trump for Three Chinese Giant Pandas.”

“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.

– By Manya Koetse and Diandian Guo
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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Insight

Shandong Woman Dies after Suffering Abuse by In-Laws over Infertility

Anger over Shandong abuse case: “Is this how the law protects women?!”

Manya Koetse

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The only photo of the victim on social media is a childhood photo.

Just a month after the tragic story of a Chinese vlogger being killed by her husband triggered outrage on social media, another extreme domestic abuse case has gone trending on Weibo.

This time, it concerns the story of the 22-year-old woman named Fang Yangyang (方洋洋) who lived in Fangzhuang village in Dezhou, Shandong Province. The woman passed away in 2019 after suffering prolonged abuse by her husband and in-laws. Chinese media report that the abuse was related to Fang’s infertility issues.

Fang married her husband Zhang Bing (张丙) in November of 2016. It was an arranged marriage, with Zhang’s parents paying a bride price of 130,000 yuan (almost $20,000).

When Fang did not get pregnant after marrying her husband, she started suffering severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband and in-laws, beginning in July of 2018. Zhang and his parents reportedly beat Fang with wooden rods, refused to let her eat, locked her up, and let her freeze outside in the cold.

The in-law’s house on November 17, photo by Beijing News / Qiao Chi

Fang, who weighed 180 pounds (80 kilograms) when she got married, only weighed 60 pounds (30 kilograms) in early 2019. Beijing News reports that Fang, malnourished and weak, died on January 31st 2019 after suffering another beating by her in-laws.

The case received more attention on social media this week as the local Yucheng People’s Court (山东禹城法院) reviewed the case after an earlier verdict in January. The retrial is set to take place on November 27.

In January 2020, the court sentenced Fang’s husband and his parents for the crime of abuse. The victim’s father-in-law, Zhang Jilin (张吉林), received three years in prison, her mother-in-law, Liu Lanying (刘兰英), got 26 months in prison, and her husband’s sentence was suspended with a three-year probation time, as reported by Sixth Tone and China Daily.

The relatively light punishments triggered anger on Weibo, where the hashtag “Woman Suffers Abuse by In-Laws for Being Infertile and Dies” (#山东一女子因不孕遭婆家虐待致死#) has been trending for days, along with other similar hashtags (#女子因不孕被夫家虐待致死案重审#, #山东女子因不孕被虐待致死#).

A statement issued by Yucheng People’s Court said the court gave the defendants lighter punishment because they were truthful about their crimes and, in advance, paid a voluntary compensation of 50,000 yuan ($7630). The verdict will now be withdrawn.

In an interview with Southcn.com, Fang’s cousin stated the family had contacted police before when Fang’s in-laws would not allow the family to see her. The second time they contacted the police was after Fang had died.

Sources close to the family state that Fang’s mother had been diagnosed with a mental condition, with Fang allegedly also showing signs of mental disability, although this has not been verified by official sources. There are also sources claiming that the father-in-law, Zhang Jilin, was a heavy drinker who would get aggressive when drunk.

On social media, many people are outraged. “I just don’t understand it!”, one person writes: “It’s just because of societal pressure that this case is now going on retrial. But this is not justice!”

Public anger about the case grew louder due to another case trending at the same time, in which a Shenzhen mother who beat her 12-year-old daughter to death received a ten-year prison sentence (#母亲失手打死12岁女儿获刑十年#).

“This is unimaginable,” one Weibo user wrote: “Isn’t the idea of sentencing someone to actually punish them?!”

“This pains me so much, is this the actual society we’re living in?”

Besides the anger over China’s criminal justice system when it comes to domestic violence, there are also those who express disgust over the fact that the Zhang family apparently arranged a marriage for the sole purpose of producing offspring. “Are we still living in the Qing Dynasty?”

Many of the comments online are similar to those that flooded social media after the death of Lamu: “Is this how the law protects women?!”

We will report more on this story after November 27.

By Manya Koetse

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Trump Versus Biden –The Sentiments on Chinese Social Media

Is Biden the preferred candidate for most Chinese, as is often claimed? An overview of discussions on Trump vs Biden on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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With nearly three billion views on the hashtag page, the ‘American elections’ are top trending on Weibo (#美国大选#). What are the current Chinese online sentiments towards Trump versus Biden?

 
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, original publication in German by Goethe Institut China, see Goethe.de: WE…WEI…WHAT? Manya Koetse erklärt das chinesische Internet.
 

“Congratulations, it’s a boy!”, many social media users in China joked when Donald Trump was elected in November of 2016.

At the time, What’s on Weibo was closely following how Chinese web users were responding to the news of Trump’s election, and found that many were quite positive.

It was Trump’s “war on political correctness” and his new, pragmatic way of approaching politics that many said they appreciated. “A new broom sweeps clean,” was a recurring comment at the time. There was a sense of excitement about this new American president, this “funny businessman,” stirring up turmoil on the world’s political stage.

There were also those saying that Trump was not the ideal candidate, but just that Hillary Clinton was much worse. With her focus on human rights, the feminist movement, and internet freedom, many thought of her as the most ‘anti-China’ candidate, and for that reason alone, were happy that Trump was elected instead of her.

But in 2020, Chinese sentiments towards Trump – and the US in general – have shifted. As people all over the world are watching the developments surrounding the American elections with great interest, let’s go over some of the main views that surface in China’s social media sphere regarding ‘Trump versus Biden.’

 

Shifting Views on Trump

 

Although it seemed that people on Chinese social media, and even official media, showed a somewhat favorable stance towards Trump in the early days after the 2016 election, this generally positive view shifted to a more negative one after the president’s controversial phone call with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen and the 2016 Fox interview in which Trump challenged the One China Policy. Many Weibo users called Trump an “idiot” and said he had “zero understanding of how diplomacy works.”

In 2017, Trump’s then 5-year-old granddaughter Arabella, who had been learning to speak Mandarin, seemed to be part of America’s diplomatic ‘charm offensive’ in China. The little girl, daughter of Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, featured in a short video that was shown to President Xi Jinping and ‘Chinese First Lady’ Peng Liyuan during an informal tea with Trump at the Forbidden City. Arabella, dressed in a Chinese-style dress, sung songs in Mandarin and recited some poetry.

The video received millions of views on Chinese social media and was widely shared by netizens and Chinese official media outlets such as Xinhua, People’s Daily and CCTV. Many viewed the video and Arabella’s efforts to learn Chinese as a sign of better China-US friendship in the future, calling it “the best present” Trump could bring during his Beijing visit.

But over the past two years, views on Trump have soured along with the deteriorating US-China (trade) relations.

When the U.S. Justice Department officially filed charges against Chinese smartphone maker Huawei in 2019 for allegedly stealing trade secrets, seeking the extradition of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (the daughter of the company’s founder), the online narrative – reiterated by Chinese state media – was that the United States was using the judicial system for a battle that was actually politically motivated; it was not about Huawei, but all about China’s rise as a competing technological power.

That same idea was spread by officials, media, and netizens, when Trump issued an American ban on Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat earlier this year. Many deemed that it was not about national security at all, but rather a fight over technological leadership.

What also made Donald Trump more unpopular among Chinese was the fact that he pointed the finger at China after the outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic, repeatedly calling it the “Chinese virus.”

When news came out in October this year that President Trump and his wife Melania tested positive for COVID-19, it immediately became top trending all over Chinese social media.

The news came right after China’s National Day, during the Golden Week holiday, and some jokingly said that the positive COVID-19 test was “Trump’s way of congratulating China during the national holiday.” Because the American president previously downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 crisis and continuously shifted the blame on China, the popular view on Trump getting infected was a simple ‘what goes around, comes around.’

Donald Trump is often nicknamed Chuān Jiànguó (川建国) on Chinese social media, which basically means “Build the Country Trump.” The name is just one among many existing memes and jokes about the U.S. president on the Chinese internet. A reason to call him Chuān Jiànguó is to make fun of Trump’s words and actions, suggesting that his leadership only brings America down and in doing so, also further accelerates the rise of China. In doing so, Trump is sarcastically called “America’s gift to China.”

 

‘Pupu’ versus ‘Dengdeng’

 

As the second and final presidential debate of the election campaign has finished and Election Day is nearing, the ‘Trump versus Biden’ topic is much discussed on Weibo, WeChat, and also on other Chinese social media platforms, such as the Chinese question-and-answer website Zhihu. In these online discussions, the two men are sometimes also jokingly referred to as ‘Pupu’ (普普) and ‘Dengdeng’ (登登), cute abbreviations for their Chinese names ‘Chuanpu’ (川普) and ‘Baideng’ (拜登).

Although it has been reported by various international media that Beijing allegedly would prefer Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump, this supposed official stance is not necessarily reflected in social media discussions in mainland China.

Western critics are also divided over whether or not Biden is the preferred candidate for the Chinese leadership. Some argue that Trump, who has weakened America’s traditional international alliances and has seemingly not been too concerned with human rights issues, is actually favored over Biden for basically strengthening China’s position in international society.

Despite the fact that views on Trump have shifted throughout the years, the discussions on Weibo and other platforms are still multifaceted when it comes to the American president. Many are not impressed by Biden’s performances either. The Democratic presidential nominee is praised by some for being “mild,” “scholarly” and “refined”, but others criticize him for using a lot of “empty words” and “talking in cliches.”

Some netizens support Biden merely for being “the enemy of an enemy.”

“Trump’s pragmatic and business-like style is very convincing,” one blogger from Beijing wrote about the second presidential debate: “I think he did better than Joe Biden, who is all about talk and no action (..) I hope Trump wins.”

In a recent lengthy WeChat blog about the US elections posted by state tabloid account Global Times, the author claims that when it comes to China, it actually does not really matter who wins the elections: “Regardless if it’s the Democrats or the Republicans, both hold a negative stance when it comes to the China issue. (..) No matter who comes to power in the future, there is a high probability that they will continue to suppress China.”

The author further suggests that there might be “a difference in style” between Trump and Biden regarding China policies: “If Trump wins, we’ll see more of what we have already been seeing now, without much international support. If Biden wins, he will be more likely to seek international consensus to target China and make use of international organizations to put pressure on Beijing. Also, Biden is probably more concerned about human rights and democratic values than Trump is.”

There are many Chinese web users who, for this reason alone, would rather see Trump win than Biden – it’s the ‘Build the Country Trump’ kind of reasoning. As one Weibo blogger from Dalian writes: “I hope Trump gets re-elected. It would just be better for China.”

An online poll that was held by a popular Weibo blogger earlier this year asked people if they would like to see Trump be reelected. Of the 8736 people participating, 74% said they hoped Donald Trump gets elected again. Only 5% said they hoped he would not be reelected. Another 21% said they felt indifferent about the American elections, as it would not make much difference for China anyway.

Although many people do care about the American elections, mostly because of how the outcome would affect China, others just enjoy watching the spectacle of U.S. politics. “I love how confident and unruly Trump is,” one commenter writes: “He is legendary. If Biden comes to power, the coming four years are going to be much more boring.”

Image of Trump shared on Weibo (@香港文匯網)

“Without Trump, the world’s just gonna be a lot less fun,” another person agrees.

But there are also those who do not care for any more Trump memes, jokes, and spectacle. “Everyday I check my phone, it’s all about Trump,” popular U.S.-based Weibo blogger Zheng Jun writes: “I really hope that once the elections are over, I don’t need to look at any more Trump news.”

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

 
This text was written for Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.
 

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