Donald Trump inauguration

Chinese media downplay Trump inauguration ... but internet users didn’t seem interested either

Media agencies across China muted on new US president’s swearing-in ceremony with no live broadcast and only brief articles and commentaries

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 11:31am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 11:09pm

On the day Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, his inauguration hardly made a ripple in newspapers and news sites across China as the Chinese media sought to downplay coverage of the event.

On Saturday morning Beijing time, most Chinese news media ran only brief articles about Trump’s swearing-in ceremony, carrying news originating from the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

At one leading Chinese newspaper, a media source revealed that its planned four-page inauguration coverage was reduced to just one story laying out Trump’s domestic economic policy.

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An English commentary released by Xinhua just before noon downplayed potential confrontation between China and the US, saying that Beijing and Washington now enjoyed “more room for cooperation than ever before”.

Trump “surely knows that investment from Chinese businesses benefits the US economy and could help create more jobs for the country,” the commentary said.

The two countries had unprecedented opportunities to work together in dealing with non-conventional global security challenges, such as terrorism, global warming and cybersecurity, it said, though Trump has previously vowed to block policies to curb climate change.

Trump would soon realise that the two nations must use more mature ways to communicate than trading barbs via Twitter, according to the Xinhua commentary.

“Among all his alternatives, the least desirable for Trump is to act on his previous threats to slap punitive tariffs on his country’s largest trading partner and label China a ‘currency manipulator’ as protectionism only stirs up retaliation,” it said.

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The People’s Daily’s overseas edition published an editorial from international affairs expert Hua Yisheng, who said Trump’s speech, which made little mention of his foreign policy direction, left a gap of information on how he would handle Sino-US relations.

The speech, which provided no clues on whether he would persist in his hostility towards China on trade and currency, indicated that “Trump is eager to win domestic support”, Hua wrote.

In a more colourful editorial, Global Times, a tabloid newspaper under People’s Daily, said that although Trump was reserved in his choice of words, the 20-minute speech fully conveyed his “personal character” and was full of “complaints” and “criticism”.

The speech set him apart from his predecessors, the editorial said.

“Previous US presidents tended to focus on fixing the divide in the society caused by the election, but it seems Trump isn’t so eager to do that. It looks like he’s prepared to ‘continue revolution’ and lead American grassroots in overthrowing the elite in Washington,” the editorial stated.

Trump’s inauguration ceremony and speech were not broadcast live on Chinese television.

Hours before the inauguration began, Chinese media coverage on the event was mostly focused only on the historical high spending on overseeing security during the ceremony – US$100 million – as well as the large masses of protesters flooding Washington.

Prior to the ceremony, Xinhua published a light-hearted piece leading with the question: If Trump were a dish, what would it taste like?

The article suggested types of food and beverages Trump might be to different regions around the world, given his stance on various issues pertaining to those areas.

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According to the article, Trump would be like whisky to the Europeans. His hailing of the “Brexit” vote for Britain to leave the European Union, and his harsh criticism of Germany’s refugee policy as a “catastrophic mistake” surely tasted “as stimulating as whisky” to the Europeans, it said.

To the Latin Americans, a dose of Trump probably tasted spicy like tequila, the article said, citing his determination to erect a wall to keep illegal immigrants from Mexico out of the US.

In contrast, the Russians would find Trump as sweet as borscht – the beetroot soup popular in Russian cuisine – given his warm attitude towards the country, the article said.

In the cybersphere, Chinese internet users did not seem particularly interested in the new American leader’s inauguration speech either.

On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, the most popular Trump-related post was one from state-run broadcaster CCTV, which garnered only about 700 shares and hundreds of comments.

Global news events generally generate at least thousands of shares and comments on Chinese social media.

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There were no obvious signs of censorship on Trump-related posts on Chinese social media networks, though Weibo censored a fake news article containing a fabricated inaugural speech by Trump before he delivered his address.

Many Chinese internet users expected a chaotic America under Trump’s leadership.

“I’m looking forward to see the US become the world No 2 under the Trump administration,” one popular comment said.

In contrast to the lack of fanfare over Trump’s inauguration in China, Obama’s swearing-in ceremonies in 2009 and 2013 both generated far more interest among the Chinese people.

Tens of millions of posts were shared on Chinese social media then.

CCTV also broadcast Obama’s 2009 inaugural speech live, partly censoring it when he mentioned “communism” and “silencing dissent”.