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What’s on Weibo Podcast #3: Trump Versus Biden –The Sentiments on Chinese Social Media (& More)

The third episode of the What’s on Weibo podcast, discussing the latest trends on Weibo.

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age via CGTN https://weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404556361521299471

This is the third What’s on Weibo podcast, reporting the biggest topics trending on Chinese social media. In this episode, we’ll talk about China potentially further relaxing its family-planning rules, calls for laws against animal abuse, and shifting public sentiments towards Trump. Joe Biden or Donald Trump, who is the preferred candidate on Weibo?

Check out our latest episode here.

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China Media

“The Biden Era is Approaching”: Discussions of U.S.-China Relations under the ‘Sleepy King’

Now that the electoral storm has somewhat settled, the issue of what Sino-American might look like under Biden is much discussed in Chinese online media.

Manya Koetse

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Joe Biden on the Great Wall, CCTV 拜登到中国爬长城 http://news.cctv.com/world/20081105/123682_3.shtml

Now that the storm of jokes and memes surrounding the American elections has settled, more serious discussions regarding Biden’s win and what it might mean for China are surfacing in China’s online media environment. These commentators and academics approach the subject from different angles.

The American elections have been a major topic of discussion in the Chinese social media environment over the past weeks.

For many netizens on Weibo and beyond, the presidential race was one between the ‘King of Understanding’ (懂王, also ‘King of Knowing’) and the ‘Sleepy King’ (睡王).

Trump’s quotes on the things he knows and understands “more than anyone else” have become somewhat famous on Chinese social media (“people are really surprised I understand this stuff‘”), earning him the ‘King of Knowing’ nickname.

Trump’s nickname explained by Global Times.

Joe Biden got his nickname for dozing off during a speech and for an edited (fake) video that went viral in which Biden was seemingly falling asleep during a live interview.

But the Democrat has more nicknames on Chinese social media, including ‘Grandpa Bai’ (Bài yéyé 拜爷爷), or the cute ‘Dēngdēng‘ (登登).

His name in Chinese is usually written as (Bàidēng 拜登), although netizens have made up many more creative ways to write his name (拜灯, 白等, 败蹬).

Now that it has become clear that former Vice President Joe Biden has won the 2020 US presidential race, Chinese media, bloggers, and netizens are reflecting on the Biden victory with a more serious tone, with the phrase “the Biden era is approaching” recurringly popping up on social media.

There are many articles and posts in China’s online media sphere that focus on Biden’s journey to the presidency, including how he faced family and personal tragedy during his political career.

But, as noted in our previous article on Chinese discussions on Trump versus Biden, most of the online articles and posts about the outcome of the American elections focus on what the shift in power might mean for China and Chinese–U.S. relations.

Over the past few days, Chinese media outlets have posted several interviews, op-eds, and videos of Chinese experts discussing the future prospects of Sino-American relations under Biden. We have selected some of these that have become popular on Weibo or news app Toutiao.

 

Hu Xijin: “The shift of American leadership has no intrinsic meaning for Sino-American relations.”

 

“Is anyone under the illusion that Biden’s rise to power will lead to a major U.S.-China détente? I’m certainly not. And neither is anyone in my circles, whether they’re journalists, academics, or officials.”

Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the editor-in-chief of the Global Times – a daily newspaper under the auspices of Party news outlet People’s Daily -, has over 23 million fans on his Weibo account. He frequently posts lengthy texts about his views on current news developments, both on Chinese social media as on Twitter (@HuXijin_GT). (For more about Hu Xijin, also check out this SupChina article.)

On November 9, Hu posted about the Biden win, writing:

Along with China’s further development, America’s strategic precautions against China will only get heavier. China only needs its own continuously growing strength to draw a baseline for the United States in its relations with China. The shift of American leadership has no intrinsic meaning for Sino-American relations. I reckon this already is the general consensus of China’s mainstream society.”

This view, that it does not really matter whether Biden or Trump leads the U.S. for the next four years, was also reiterated in a recent blog post published by Global Times in which the author wrote: “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.”

In his November 9 post, Hu Xijin stressed that the outcome of the American elections is not of great significance for the status-quo of Sino-American relations, but he did add that Biden’s win might possibly positively affect the irregular patterns of current Sino-American relations. The political mistrust and power games that took place under the Trump presidency might make way for a period of U.S.-China relations that is less tense.

One of the most popular comments in response to Hu’s post basically summarized Hu’s message, writing: “America’s goal is to suppress China. The leaders might be different, the methods might not be the same, but the goal remains unchanged.”

 

Prof. Shen Yi: “It’s all for the betterment of the US – not for China.”

 

Shen Yi (沈逸) is the Associate Professor of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. On Weibo, he has over 927,000 fans.

On November 10, Shen commented on Biden’s win through a video that was published on Chinese social media by The Observer (观察者).

Shen’s view is somewhat different than that of Hu. Instead of arguing that it does not matter whether Biden or Trump takes office, Shen argues that Chinese people should not mistake foreign politicians for friends, and remember that U.S.-China relations are all about power politics. Even though Chinese netizens sometimes warm up to American leaders like ‘Grandpa Bai’ (拜爷爷), and jokingly make them part of their daily discussions, their views of them should be more serious.

Shen says: “When the American media announced Biden’s victory, there were even some people in China who ‘shed tears of gratitude’, thinking that Sino-American relations will now get back on track.” But Shen gives a warning to those who sighed with relief about Biden’s win, saying: “You should not forget that Biden is a politician. He is an American politician. (..) He is not a Chinese leader.”

Shen suggests that even if Biden would relax some of the tougher China policies after he takes office, for example regarding trade or technology, he would only do so for the betterment of the U.S., not because it would help China. Trump put ‘America first’, but so will future U.S. leaders: “It’s all for themselves.”

Shen mentions that Chinese people should draw a lesson from China’s position during the Korean War and its ‘Resist America, Aid North Korea’ campaign, when China fought on Korean soil to counter ‘American aggression.’ In the worst-case scenario, he argues, China would again firmly stand ground against U.S. powers: “To combat American hegemony, we can only respond with the only language they can understand.”

 

Prof. Yao Yang: “It’s impossible to go back to how U.S.-China relations used to be.”

 

“During Trump’s four years in office, he’s established a political heritage that can’t be immediately erased – including the worsened relations between the U.S. and China. If Biden takes power, will there be a shift in Sino-American relations?”

Yao Yang (姚洋) is the dean and professor at the National School of Development of Peking University. He previously also taught at the University of Washington and New York.

In a recent op-ed for Beijing News, the professor writes that in these initial discussions of what Biden’s office might mean for the future of the relations between Beijing and Washington, it must first be acknowledged that Chinese-U.S. relations will never go back to how they used to be.

Whereas Hu took a stance from the perspective of the people, and Shen discussed the upcoming Biden era from the stance of international power relations, Yang approaches the subject through a more historical lens.

Yang argues that the tensions between China and the U.S. did not start with Trump. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy, which tried to peacefully contain China’s ambitions, disrupted the general tranquility that existed before 2008. “China started to be seen as a rival,” Yang writes, adding that this idea of the U.S. and China being geopolitical competitors was continued under Trump and is expected to remain the same under Biden.

Looking back at half a century of U.S.-China relations, Yang claims that the friendly relations between the two countries in the 1970s and 1980s were because of the changing relations with the Soviet-Union and that the U.S. policy of engagement with China from the 1990s to 2010 was based on the hope that China would become more like the United States.

When, around 2010, it became clear to the U.S. elite and leadership that China was not going to be Americanized and that the Chinese path to development was actually successful, the response was one of resentment. Yang asserts that the China policies during the four years under Trump show this angry response towards a China that has taken a different route than America had hoped for during the decades preceding 2010.

Does this mean that nothing will change for U.S.-China relations under Biden? Not necessarily so. Although the two countries will remain to have a competitive relationship, Yang does expect China and the U.S. to have more peaceful relations under the administration of Biden, which will shift away from Trump’s “Cold War mentality” towards China.

 

Zheng Yongnian: “Biden’s China Policy will be much more predictable.”

 

An interview with Chinese political scientist and political commentator Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) was posted by 21st Century Business Herald (21世纪经济报道) on November 11, focusing on American politics and Biden.

Zheng holds similar views on the upcoming Biden era as the other commentators mentioned in this article, namely that the general state of China-US relations will not be drastically changed when Biden comes to power.

Zheng does stress, however, that Biden’s win might have a positive impact on the international community at large, bringing more rationality and an intention to cooperate. In that regard, the Biden era will probably be more similar to the Obama presidency, Zheng says.

Although no major changes are expected under Biden when it comes to U.S.-China relations, Zheng does assert that Biden’s win is positive for Chinese leadership because this president will be much more predictable than Donald Trump.

“Biden’s foreign policy will probably be a basic continuation of the Obama era. So of course there will be some change in Sino-American relations. There’s no fear of hard-line [policies], there are mainly worries about unpredictability. Trump would constantly create these black swans, there’s just no way to predict it. The predictability of the Biden team will be stronger than that of Trump.”

More from What’s on Weibo on China–United States relations here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©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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