image

Donald Trump inauguration

To love him or hate him? Donald Trump’s many fans in China are having second thoughts now

Businessman’s stance against political correctness and staunch nationalism struck a chord with many mainlanders, but then he started criticising China...

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 January, 2017, 5:29pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 1:36am

As Donald Trump prepares for his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, some of his once enthusiastic Chinese fans have turned their back on him for his hawkish views on China, although Chinese nationalists still agree with many of his social ideas.

Trump enjoyed unusual popularity in China during his campaign. His supporters in China, although they had no vote in the US election, found an advocate in him against global elites and hypocritical “political correctness”. They strongly believed in his victory even when he lagged in opinion polls, and cheered his stunning win over Hillary Clinton on November 8.

But less than a month later, a group that was pro-Trump during the campaign has re-identified themselves from “Trump supporters” to “Trump bystanders” – after the president-elect took a congratulatory phone call from pro-independence Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen in December and then openly challenged the long standing “one-China” policy to push China on trade concessions.

“Trump fan or a patriotic Chinese, you can’t be both,” said one member who asked not to be named.

Although many fans liked Trump for his dismissal of Western “political correctness”, they are deeply offended by his violation of Beijing’s own version – that Taiwan is an unalienable part of “one China”.

Trump’s stance on one-China principle signals turbulent times for Sino-US ties

Taiwan is a breakaway province to be reunified, and its independence would trigger “non-peaceful means” from the mainland, according to the Anti-Secession Law of China. Trump’s gestures, including his comment on arms sales to Taiwan, were interpreted by many as to have increased the probability of “reunification by force”.

A weibo user named “Monkey King Virus” said that his support for Trump ended on November 9. As a Chinese he would now fight President Trump as hard as Trump fought political correctness if the new US leader forced China into s war.

The future of Sino-US ties under Trump appear gloomy since secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson told his confirmation hearing that the China should be denied access to its man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea, in addition to a looming trade war on the horizon.

“I have changed my opinion greatly,” said Tony Liang, who told the Post in October that he thought Trump was a pragmatist.

Now Liang said Trump’s “extraordinary campaigning technique” had made many Chinese overestimate his competence and tolerance as a president. His lack of commonsense as a politician, especially in diplomacy, were his great weaknesses.

“In particular, his unprofessional foreign policy statements have been very disappointing, even outrageous,” Liang said.

Why Trump carries less baggage in China: survey reveals candidate’s surprising popularity

Junius Lu, who had hoped a Trump presidency could give China a five- to 10-year window to concentrate on development, compared Trump to Chen Guangbiao, the controversial Chinese tycoon prone to boast about his business success and philanthropy.

He said China’s development should and would not be affected by others, including the incoming Trump administration.

“We Chinese fought US administrations that directly imposed a war on us. And Trump is just another US president,” said Lu, referring to the Korean War.

“How China proceeds will be decided by the Chinese,” he said.

But Lu also said during the presidential campaign that Trump was still a better choice than Hillary Clinton for the US, which had leaned too far to the left.

Some others, on the other hand, said they supported Trump in the election not because they admired him, but hoped that a Trump presidency would spell trouble for the US, and be less harmful to China than Clinton.

Qi Xiaolin said Trump’s personality would further polarise American society, rather than unite the country.

“A war does no good to either side,” Qi said. “A businessman like Trump would use that as a bluff or threat, but would be very unlikely he would actually do it.”

Liang also said Trump’s cabinet appointments suggested he never get rid of the influence of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex and would be unable to make substantial improvements to the lives of the poorif he cannot narrow the wealth gap.

Trump’s fans in China are sticking with him despite lewd remarks

However, not all his fans are disappointed or have turned away. Some said they never expected Trump who pledged “America first” to be friendly to China.

One Weibo account for Trump supporters on the mainland has seen its number of followers double since October to more than 107,000.

The website continues to update news about illegal immigrant, racial clashes, Islamist extremism, and tax and social benefits, all of which had been the site’s reasons to support Trump in the election.

Some of Trump’s transition moves, such as starting the wall-building preparation, ordering manufacturing to stay in the US, naming anti-Islamic hawks to his cabinet, publicly recruiting thousands of administration posts, and challenging the mainstream media also won him praise at the Popular Q&A website zhihu.com, where steadfast Trump fans had confidently predicted his election victory but whose opinions are now split.

Why are recent Chinese immigrants supporting Trump?

While some liberals blamed Trump and mocked his supporters, many still upheld Trumpian ideologies even if they no longer follow Trump.

An anonymous user on zhihu.com said Trump’s China policy does not really matter, because there was never a US president who did not have an axe to grind with China, and China can just strike back at whatever is thrown at it.

“For myself, I only like his nationalism, his outspokenness about America first,” the post said. “Even if he screws up, it would not be due to a failure of his nationalism.”