Throughout his presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump has railed against China for cheating America by manipulating its currency and with its unfair trade practices.
Chinese reactions to Trump’s salvos have been curiously mixed.
Compared to how he is viewed in his own country – where over two-thirds of the general public view him negatively and about one-third view him favorably – a poll in the anti-American government Chinese newspaper Global Times indicated over half of the general public viewed Trump favorably.
Trump in no way dominates Chinese media the way he dominates American media. Chinese media is tightly controlled and western websites such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are heavily censored. In fact, a large majority of Chinese have never even heard of Mr Trump. (How many Chinese public officials, celebrities or business moguls can you name?)
Among Chinese leaders, however, the view of Trump is slightly less benign. Although government officials carefully withhold commentary, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei recently described Trump as an ‘irrational type’ and that if the U.S. followed any of his suggested trade policies – especially toward China – it “wouldn’t be entitled to world leadership.”
Trump will undoubtedly expand his knowledge of the region if he becomes president and this will inevitably lead to revisions to many of his proposals, not only toward China but other countries in the region, as well.
Although his claim that China manipulates its currency is accurate, Trump ignores the fact that Beijing has done so largely at the strong behest of Washington, spending hundreds of billions to stay the depreciation of its currency.
Similarly, he accuses Japan of taking a free ride for receiving security from American military bases in the country. However, Trump neglects to acknowledge that the U.S. “advised” Japan to accept a constitution at the end of World War II that required Japan to renounce offensive military capabilities in exchange for a protective umbrella as well as affording the U.S. strategic military locations from which it could monitor the western Pacific, aka China and the former Soviet Union.
Chinese leaders would prefer Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton who has criticized China’s human rights record for years, although the Chinese perception seems to be that Clinton would prevail in a face-off with Trump.
The Chinese also view Trump’s preference to negotiate deals as a game they can win, which would enable them to further their expansionist plans, especially militarily, from the Far East to Africa and South America.
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