Trump losing popularity due to COVID-19?
Orders for China-made US campaign items drop sharply in March
Published: Mar 23, 2020 09:22 PM

A shop owner unfurls a pro-Trump banner in a shop at the China Yiwu International Trade City in Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang Province. File photo: IC

Orders for 2020 reelection flags and caps for US President Donald Trump have seen a huge decline in China's factories since March, a sign that he may be losing some popularity among US voters amid the COVID-19 health crisis - as trade records of Chinese exporters are believed by many to be an indicator of US elections.

Exporters also pointed out the declining orders may also reflect the lockdown of cities and logistics disruptions in the US amid rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

"We saw not a single order for more than 20 days this month," Liang Junge, sales manager of Hebei Dishixiao Glove Manufacturing Co, which makes baseball caps printed with "Trump 2020", told the Global Times. Liang noted that the current situation is "more severe" than last year when China and the US were engaged in a trade war.

More than half of the firm's products are sold to Europe and the US, with 30 to 40 percent going to the US.

Liang said there were still orders in February when China was pummeled by COVID-19, though orders and shipments were delayed, but new orders have dropped to zero.  

Another Chinese exporter also mentioned the near-halt in US orders in March. "Our latest batch of large orders was in February when some ordered 3,000-4,000 Trump election flags, but after the pandemic spread in March, our orders plunged, and they almost halted recently," Lü Changchun, production manager at the Wufu Flag plant in Yongkang, East China's Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times on Monday.

Lü's factory makes flags for all US Presidential election candidates including Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and 80 percent of the company's exports are sent to the US. Lü said that in the first two weeks of March, his company saw a 90 percent drop in orders. 

The declining sales of Trump campaign items are considered by many as a sign of Trump's losing popularity among voters, especially when his ability to handle the COVID-19 crisis is questioned in the US, although exporters have pointed out the declining orders may also reflect the lockdown of cities and logistics delays in the US.

"There are many uncertainties now, and we will adjust production plans if any candidates drop out," Liang said. 

Commodity order records from China, the world's manufacturing hub, were reportedly to have predictive power for major global events such as the US Presidential election. Some even believe that the index was more accurate than US polls. 

In 2016, for instance, by analyzing sales of presidential campaign items, Yiwu, the world's biggest wholesale market in East China's Zhejiang Province, was rumored to successfully predict the victory of current US President Donald Trump in the 2016 vote months before the election night.

The Global Times also found on Monday that using keywords "2020 election flags" when sorting the results by transaction level on Alibaba's international platform, most of the top ranking items among 1,262 results are flags supporting Trump.

Nevertheless, Chinese industry insiders cautioned that a decline in orders may mean something, but it could just reflect a small picture of how the presidential election is going in the US, noting that predicting election results based on Chinese exporters' orders is risky.