Trump’s rise stumps Chinese scholars

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/22 1:28:00

Disgust with DC, Wall Street fuels support

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (left) introduces vice presidential candidate Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday. Pence served on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Congress, something which could make up for Trump's lack of foreign affairs experience in the general election. Photo: AFP

The rise of Donald Trump as the US Republican Party's presidential candidate has made Chinese experts wonder how a businessman, who was often ridiculed, could have bested politicians and is now just one step away from the presidency.

While Chinese netizens remain skeptical about Trump and the US political system, scholars are surprised with the strength of the anti-establishment sentiment.

"At the very beginning, we didn't expect American disgust with Washington and Wall Street to have such a powerful impact on the US general election," Jin Canrong, deputy director of the Center of American Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Jin said he believes the growing wealth gap and the slowing economy in the US has led to Trump's growing support, not to mention Trump's brashness which separates him from traditional politicians.

In December 2014, MSNBC posted an article on its official website, "What would a Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton matchup in 2016 look like?"  Many other mainstream media also published similar articles.

At that time, the mainstream still believed that the election would pit members of two of the US' elite political families.

Even Chinese government officials had downplayed Trump's role, though he has repeatedly made unfriendly remarks about China.

In September 2015, at a regular press briefing in Beijing, Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson, responded to Trump's criticisms of China, saying "it is the policies toward China adopted by the US government and the mainstream opinion of the US people that we value more."

Rise of populism

Jin admitted that most scholars, whether from China or the US, were wrong about Trump, and they also ignored the strength of populism to some extent.

He said that observers thought Trump's base revolved around undereducated, lower-class and radical white people.

"But now we discovered Trump could also attract many voters from the silent majority," who found his outspoken style and negativity make him look very different from traditional politicians, Jin said.

Globalization paradox

 Wang Yiwei, a senior fellow of international relations at the Renmin University of China, said experts didn't expect globalization to have an effect on Western countries' middle class political views.

Wang said globalization used to benefit the middle class, who played an important role in society. However, globalization is facing a difficult time, and globalization is causing problems for the middle class in the West, such as the immigrant crisis, terrorist attacks and racial tensions. 

Experts believed that the middle class played a role in stabilizing society, but now the middle class prefers change. This could be the reason why experts had not expected Trump to go this far.

Chinese netizens still consider Trump's rise a comedy show.

On, a Chinese website which focuses on politics and social issues, Trump-related news stories are popular. On the website's feedback area,  many claim to support Trump because they believe Trump "will mess up the US and allow China to overtake the US as soon as possible."

Nevertheless, Wang noted that the American people hold a very different view, because they created something different in the political system.

The "Trump Phenomenon" shows that the US political system is not controlled by traditional elites, and a person like Trump, who has no political background, could also have a chance to compete against a person like Hillary Clinton, Wang said.

Song Luzheng, a research fellow at the China Institute of Fudan University, said it is the democratic system, not Trump, that should be blamed for the current mess in the election.

"Maybe Trump's contribution in US history lies in his very existence, which has made people realize the problem of the current political system and this will eventually push through a change," Song said on

Posted in: Americas

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