The U.S. Presidential Elections from a Chinese Perspective

China has been on Trump's mind, but what does a Chinese student have to say about Trump?

The best TV series this year just put its last episode on the screen on Nov. 9. Donald Trump, in the last minute, defeated Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania and other key states and was elected as President. When Professor Joseph Nye raised the question “Is the American Century Over”, he probably could not imagine the victory of Trump. But as a Chinese, an outsider of this event, “D.T. in the House” is big news but not a surprise.


Debates, Newspapers and the October surprise

The long rally between Clinton and Trump started from the three debates. There are institutions making surveys after each debate, telling people who got a higher approval rating. These statistics showed that Clinton’s ideas and rhetorics seemed more convincing than Trump’s, but however convincing Clinton’s ideas are, the real winner of each debate is Trump. Clinton has been a figure in the White House for years, while Trump is a newcomer. So peoples’ concentration in these three debates would be mainly on Trump.

In all these three debates, Trump, who appeared to be radical and aggressive, fully took advantage of this chance to promote his opinions and policies that are not easily accepted by the mainstream media (like the New York Times). Meanwhile, the pure passion he has when delivering the speech, like Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto and Slackbridge in the novel Hard Times, is a perfect way to blind people from going into details of his policies. Even his word choice in the debate made him more popular among the American people. The word “BIGLY” was then widely used to tease the ignorance of Trump.

Newspapers under the control of political elites also contributed a lot to Trump’s final success. NYU Shanghai Professor Clay Shirky commented that the fewer connections one has with the society; the more likely society will build connections with him. That is how traditional media unintentionally helped Trump. From the day Trump announced that he would participate in the Presidential Election, the elite media kept being suspicious and conveying negative comments, describing, or even exaggerating and demonizing Trump as the most disgusting creature in the word. His words, actions and stories strongly violate the “correctness” and the “American spirit”.

However, traditional media, especially newspapers, would easily fall into the Tacitus Trap. People are always suspicious about the message newspaper conveys, because newspapers and other traditional media shoulder the responsibility of the first round filtering. These messages are selected and interpreted. When people already stayed for a long time in this media environment, and at that time there came the man who broke all the subconsciously prevailing doctrines, people turned to his side, making a bet that he could make some changes, and showed pity on his being disdained by the untrustworthy elites.

The last, fatal reason leading to Clinton’s failure was the October surprise. Wikileaks announced this summer that Hillary Clinton had used a private email address which was not under the surveillance of FBI, and she secretly deleted more than 30,000 emails, which might include state secrets. Clinton responded to this issue in debates. But when all three debates were finished, Wikileaks announced that the emails revealed Clinton’s betrayal of her country. For instance, Clinton had received funds through her Clinton Foundation from officials in the Middle East, who are believed to have violated in human rights. Then there was no room for Clinton to make a further explanation. Though the poll showed that Clinton was still leading by 2-3 percent, Trump’s shadow supporters who remained silent in these months or appeared to support Clinton for the “correctness” would easily fill this gap.


The Victory of Mao

But how could Trump get so many people to vote for him? It is the theory of the former CPC leader Mao that contributes to his success. There are two features in Mao’s theory: one is “following the mass line (qunzhong luxian)”; the other is “countryside surrounding the cities (nongcun baowei chengshi)”.

Trump is undoubtedly conservative and anti-cosmopolitan. When he claimed that he would build the fifth Wonder of the World, a Great Wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, many people thought that he was crazy, and that he biased the Mexican immigrants in the U.S. But what Trump pointed out is not wrong. Mexican immigrants contain a certain amount of smugglers and drug dealers, which threatened the security of this country. Those China-oriented immigrants also cast their votes for Trump such as Peter Liang, who was, from the perspective of the nationalism-driven Chinese-Americans, not treated fairly. They want Trump to make changes, when he said that “all lives matter.” They fear that the right of their minority group would not be treated fairly with Clinton’s tolerance on countless refugees. For those people supporting Trump, the message they got from this proposal is “make America safe again” and “make America united agai.”

So was the case of charging extra tax for oversea corporations to make them invest more domestically. Economists rebutted that this will raise the cost of production and make it harder for U.S. economy to have a worldwide influence; liberalists blamed that this proposal won’t work well in a well-globalized world. But for people who are suffering from unemployment, what they interpreted from his speeches are “recovering domestic economy”, “more jobs” and “make America wealthy again.”

This could somehow explain the situation in Florida, where Trump finally won its 29 votes. Trump’s proposals and slogans, for example, his answer “All lives matter” towards Black Lives Matter movement in his speech in Gettysburg, are regarded as “the voice of the people.”


Clinton won the cities, and Trump took almost all the rest. Around 80 years ago, one Chinese took this strategy and then won China. In the twenty-first century, an America took this strategy and then became the president.


“Wrong One, Trump Out”

It seemed to me that the whole United States didn’t fall asleep that night, especially those in California, New York, and Washington DC. The photos and short videos about people protesting on the road occupied Facebook and Wechat moment posts. People tried to conquer the Trump Building in New York, and words sprayed on the wall of the White House say “Trump Out”.

It is always easier to have a movement saying “No” rather than saying “Go” without good organization. These protests against Trump being elected as President, driven firstly by depression and anger, are on the WRONG target. Protestors say that it is the damned democracy, but it is the American people who chose to have factions and a federal system designed by James Madison. So the protests against the result of the election are in fact challenging the legitimacy of U.S. government. What these protests should aim are the future policies and laws which Trump would probably promote in his presidency.

Before people start protesting, people simply conclude Trump as a President leading to the decline of U.S. economy and U.S. moral values. But the question is, is Donald Trump one hundred percent wrong? At least his proposals and his policies COULD be a way to solve the American dilemma in the multipolar world. What actually caused problem is that he triggered something out of his control. His words and actions spread quickly through Twitter and Facebook, bringing back racial segregation and sexual bias. Those who suffer from sexual harassment would hear that kind of excuse: “If our president could touch the vagina of a woman, why can’t I?”; and those who commit race-based cyberbullying came out with the slogan “make U.S. white again.” All these are what people should protest against Trump.

From a perspective of a Chinese, I can’t simply tell how Trump would influence the relation between China and U.S. The Cross-Strait issue, the South China Sea issue, the THAAD in South Korea…we have strategic conflicts with America in many places. Meanwhile, we cooperate on many other fields, for example, the Silicon Valley Bank’s alliance with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank on technology property promotion. Trump was conservative, but is now changing to a businessman-style politician because he gradually understands that he is not standing for his own interest. I can’t predict how he will react, so then it’s hard for me to say whether he is the right one for China.

In his speech after winning the election, Trump promised again that U.S will be a great country in 2020 or even 2024. Let’s just go and see.

This article was written by Ray Leiyi Lin. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Epoch Times

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