By DINAH KE (KE DU)
Global Business Journalism reporter
The 2020 U.S. presidential election has attracted widespread attention on Chinese social media. By Nov. 5, two days into the vote counting, the hashtag “U.S. presidential election” has racked up 7 billion views on Weibo, the Twitter-like social media platform in China.
“Chinese netizens are showing unprecedented enthusiasm for the final outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, yet they are also hedging their hopes on a smoother China-U.S. relationship, whether it’s Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” said Liu Yunyun, a Chinese expert in a lecture on Nov. 4.
Internet users in China have kept their eyes peeled mostly for the impact of the vote on the relationship between the U.S. and China, which has been set up as the former’s rival for hegemony over the course of a protracted trade war and global pandemic. Most of them are looking for a reset for China’s relations with the U.S.
However, as vote counts continued in the days after Election Day, Joe Biden’s lead in several key battleground states grew, pushing him to his Electoral College victory over Donald Trump, which is bad news for Trump’s Chinese supporters.
“Although both Biden and Trump have their ‘supporters’ in China,” said Liu Yunyun, associate executive editor and also columnist at Beijing Review, in a lecture held by Global Business Journalism co-director Rick Dunham, “there are more people in China who hope the winner could be Trump.”
As for the reason, Liu argues that maybe it’s because they believe a Trump victory might also provide more opportunities for China to expand its influence in the world.
Years ago, Chinese online wisecrackers have coined the moniker “Chuan Jianguo” for Trump, a Communist-sounding name that means" Trump, who's helping China build itself. “Chuan” is the Chinese literal rendering of Trump's surname, while “Jianguo” is "nation builder" meaning "China builder".
“No matter what the real reason behind this nickname is, at least it shows many Chinese people’s preference for Trump,” Liu said in the lecture, mentioning that all the screwy policies of Trump's presidency, in part of Chinese society's views, have helped “make China great again” instead of “making America great again.”
Who is Joe Biden? Chinese people try to figure out life after Trump
By YANG CHENXI
Global Business Journalism reporter
“It seems like everyone is paying attention to the election, from farmers to the retired people,” said Zhou Qing’an, a professor in Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. "The level of attention is unprecedented.”
For the most, Chinese netizens don't have a favorite candidate and just watched the fun like a bystander. Netizens made jokes and shared memes on social media and those just went viral. Still, there is a special pro-Trump voice on the Chinese internet.
“Chinese ordinary people think Trump is honest, straightforward and even funny,” said Yunyun Liu, associate executive editor, columnist of Beijing Review, “he’s got an interesting television image and some like his personality.”
Trump’s strange speech and behavior are often discussed in China, while Biden is less known in China.
“Biden is known as a boring person to Chinese people,” Liu said, “and he appears to be weak, not very energetic compared with Trump.”
For those who are directly influenced by Trump’s unreasonable controversial policies, such as corporations affected by trade war and students banned from getting a visa, they are desperately eager for a Biden win. They might not know Biden well too much, but at least they can feel better off for the moment.
But many elites in China, concerned about Trump's trade war and restrictions on Chinese student visas, view the election in a different way.
“People in China want U.S.-China relations to become normal, not that normal but just not so absurd,” said Liu, “The Biden win could smooth U.S.-China relations."
Biden win could bring U.S. back to global leadership on many important global issues, such as climate change and trade. That could lead to more cooperation with China, but also economic and diplomatic competition.
“Whoever ultimately wins, this kind of power competition will begin,” said Liu, “We can see this competition is coming.”