“You have a problem with ISIS. You have a bigger problem with China,” explained Donald Trump when announcing his run for American president in June. And that was just one of the 23 mentions of China during the real estate tycoon’s 46-minute speech. This week he has been at it again, proposing tariffs on Chinese goods as the only way to punish Beijing for devaluing its currency and taking American jobs.
Prior to entering the race for the White House Trump was relatively unknown in China. A few Chinese businesses feature as his office tenants. Its biggest state bank, ICBC, has its New York offices in Trump Tower, for instance. But elsewhere he is known best as the billionaire host of the reality show The Apprentice and it is only recently that the Chinese have started to take notice of his political ambitions.
Like many of the rest of us, the Chinese aren’t sure whether to take Trump too seriously. One common theme is that nobody seems to be able to resist making fun of his hairstyle. “Why doesn’t he finish his haircut?” asked one netizen. “I thought his hair was pixellated?” queried another, before uploading a photo likening Trump’s scalp to salmon sushi.
“If you haven’t heard of Donald Trump, he is the American Chen Guangbiao,” wrote another weibo user. Chen, a self-proclaimed tycoon and philanthropist, is renowned for his formidable ability to generate news headlines about himself (see WiC183). “Everyone knows him but no one likes him,” another explained.
Trump’s provocative stance on China has started to irk commentators from the official media. The Global Times is deeply unimpressed, saying that Americans are fascinated only by “his inclination to flaunt his wealth, unpredictable way of doing things, and ‘big mouth’ personality”.
“People seem to have been taking any opportunity to slap down political correctness and replace it with straight talking. Even if that straight talking is crazy,” it warned.
Some netizens agree. “George W. Bush is thinking, ‘please win the election, because then I can get rid of the title as the dumbest president in American history’,” one proposed.
Other netizens have nicknamed him ‘Broken Bed’ (“trump” sounds like “a bed breaks” in Chinese 床破). “Take it easy. If Broken Bed got elected we would be entertained everyday,” a blogger suggested.
But Trump also has some Chinese fans too. “He makes Hillary look like a kitten,” enthused one.
The New Yorker magazine didn’t share the enthusiasm. In a lengthy article it asked this week: “How did a real campaign emerge from a proposition so ludicrous that an episode of The Simpsons once used a Trump Presidency as a conceit for a dystopian future?”
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