Ahead of one-year anniversary of Trump presidency, his Chinese fan base has become ever stronger

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/17 19:07:25

In China, Trump is highly thought of as a political correctness-defying patriot

Though under constant ridicule in the US, President Trump has many admirers in China who think he is a patriotic and pragmatic leader for Americans.

Trump's defiance of political correctness is well received among those Chinese who complain about domestic affirmative action policies.

A woman takes photos of a giant rooster sporting US President Donald Trump's iconic hairstyle in front of a shopping mall in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province in 2017. Photo: VCG

One year after his inauguration, US President Donald Trump - who thus far may have drawn the most criticism of any modern US president - has nonetheless found large waves of fans thousands of miles away.

They appreciate his straightforward and down-to-earth style, his defiance of political correctness, his "America First" approach and his successful private businesses. They buy his books, create his fan clubs, praise his family and lightheartedly joke about his hair and gestures. They are Chinese.

"Being real is what I like the most about Trump. He is not a polished politician; all his strengths and weaknesses are exposed to the public," a netizen surnamed Li, who runs an online Trump fan club with over 5,500 followers on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, told the Global Times. "He has a strong sense of patriotism while enjoying the glamour brought by his fortune," Li said.

Trump's Chinese admirers are not only among the grassroots, but also well-educated elite who examined Trump's attitudes toward China and drew the conclusion that the American president is more pragmatic and avoids Sino-US contradictions such as human rights issues. 

"It's an indisputable fact that many Chinese love Trump, and it became more apparent after his visit to China last November," Qiu Zhenhai, a popular Phoenix TV commentator, wrote on his Weibo.

There are no official or comprehensive statistics which show the size of Trump's fan base in China. However, some Chinese scholars who took a rational look at Trump and his polices warned that Chinese people's fondness of Trump does not indicate that all is calm in Sino-US ties.

A man wearing a costume of an emperor poses with Trump's wax statue in Shenyang, Liaoning Province. Photo: VCG

A patriotic man

Li, who referred to himself as a businessman living abroad, said that he created his Trump fan club in October of 2015 after watching a video clip of Trump's speeches.

"I created the account because I am his fan. From the video I felt his political enthusiasm and sensed that his running for presidency was for real, although many believed that he did it just for fun," Li said.

Li uses the account to post and discuss Trump news and updates with other fans, which mostly involve defending him and mocking Trump's opponents.

One of their latest discussions was about the new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, written by journalist Michael Wolff, which allegedly reveals the chaos of the presidential office after Trump took office. 

"Trump's supporters are likely to laugh their heads off at the book. As for Trump, I believe that he does not fear any fake or negative news; he fears no news. News of any kind makes his foundation steadier," Li wrote while re-posting news citing the book saying that Trump and his campaign team did not expect to or even want to win the election.

Other Trump related accounts that timely translate his tweets and speeches can be found on various Chinese social media platforms, although some have been deleted for unknown reasons. 

While calling Trump a patriotic man, Li said that many of Trump's polices that dare to oppose political correctness have strong public support.

The Trump administration's travel ban proposed in the first week of his taking office, which forbade travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries considered a "terrorist threat" to enter the US also touched Chinese people's hearts, as many often complain online about China's "biased policies toward Muslims for the sake of ethnic unity and social stability."

"I would raise both my arms to hail it, if there is a Trump in China," a netizen named "yudaizhenlong" said on the popular Chinese question-and-answer website zhihu.com, claiming that Muslims who commit a crime in China usually receive a lighter penalty due of the government's concern about ethnic unity and the influence of mosques. 

Aside from rejecting political correctness, Trump found common ground in China with his "America First" policies. Trump decided to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement and UNESCO and end America's "participation in the UN's Global Compact on Migration." Meanwhile, he proposed that the 2018 budget cut foreign assistance by 42 percent.

Trump's pursuit of a smaller role in the world has won him applause on the Chinese interwebs, with some netizens calling him "the greatest president in US history" or "the man who can really make America great again."

Some also find common ground with Trump in their discontent with the UN. They even suggested that China learn from Trump in solving the refugee issue. Last June, tens of thousands of Chinese netizens left negative reviews under a UN Refugee Agency's Weibo post about a charity event paying respect to people who support and care about refugees on World Refugee Day. Netizens ranted out that China should not accept refugees.

During China's 2017 Spring Festival holiday, over 50,000 angry Chinese netizens again stormed the UN's Weibo account, criticizing it for not respecting Chinese tradition, after it compared a Chinese New Year Eve's reunion dinner with hungry refugees, and fireworks with gunfire in war regions.

"Many Chinese populists on the internet admire Trump's decisions and they feel discontent over domestic policies or believe the Chinese government is weak," Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the China Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

But they only concentrate on short-term and partial interests, ignoring a country's overall development plan, said Liu.

Instead of pursing global status, Trump focused on the US's development, such as improving its economy and providing more jobs for his own people, which was the right thing to do in the minds of many Chinese people, Sun Chenghao, an assistant research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.


Trump products

Many Chinese know Trump as the tycoon from the "The Apprentice" reality TV show, and his transition to president made the halo Chinese people had already placed upon his head even brighter.

On e-retailer website amazon.cn, many books written by or about Trump, either in Chinese or English, are steady sellers; popular titles include Never Give Up, Trump: the Art of the Deal, and Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life. Chinese book buyers, in their reviews, praise his efforts and perseverance behind his success. 

Not just Trump, even his family members now have fans in China. Videos featuring Trump's young granddaughter Arabella Kushner singing Chinese folk songs or reciting ancient poems have received millions of views, and many believe Arabella represents the friendly relationship between China and the US while praising her as "surprisingly cute and impressive."

Trump's adult daughter Ivanka (Arabella's mother) is also no-stranger to the Chinese. Her beauty, professional success and ability to balance work and family have won her many Chinese fans, who see her as a role model. Some fans even study her busy daily schedule to motivate themselves.

Unlike in the US, where Trump is often the target of ridicule, to many Chinese he is more like a comedian amusing audiences with his gestures and bird-like hair.

In early 2017, Trump became a Spring Festival mascot in China, with a giant rooster sporting Trump's iconic golden hairstyle, going viral worldwide. It first appeared in a shopping mall in Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi Province, and later several Chinese factories started to produce inflatable Trump-like rooster figures to welcome in the Year of the Rooster.

On taobao.com, a Chinese e-commerce website, Trump-related products constitute over 70 pages of search results. These include wigs resembling Trump's hair, Trump masks, T-shirts, mobile phone shells, socks and even toilet paper printed with Trump's exaggerated facial expressions.

Funny translations of Trump's Chinese names, such as "Chuanpu," which means "substandard Putonghua with a Sichuan accent," often appear in popular Chinese puns.

China ties

Trump spoke highly about his first official China visit last November, and praised Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "highly respected and powerful representative of his people," in his tweets.

"Some Chinese scholars were pleased, as during the trip Trump did not once touch on sensitive issues such as human rights or intellectual property, and called his policy towards China pragmatic," Sun said.

Several days before his visit, Trump tweeted that he looked forward to building an even stronger relationship between the US and China in the coming years ahead. Seeing the waves of positive views about his trip, more Chinese were introduced to Trump.

However, some Chinese experts believe that Trump's friendly gestures and the people's love for him does not mean Sino-US relations will remain calm or smooth during the remainder of Trump's presidency.

These scholars have realized that the growing criticism Trump faces from his country may create more issues that challenge the current status, Sun said, adding that the US has hyped China's "sharp power" to manipulate Western countries' politics in 2017.

After returning home, Trump was slammed by US media and NGOs, who referred to his China visit as "a pilgrimage" and accused him of abandoning the American principle of human rights and freedom of press during his trip here.

"Trump is a businessman who only cares about his interests rather than friendship. From this perspective, he has no emotions. All those emotions, his friendliness to China and Chinese people, were imposed by these Chinese fans," Liu said.

Newspaper headline: Donald fandom

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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