Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why More Chinese Are Warming to Trump, 'Rape' Comments Aside

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why More Chinese Are Warming to Trump, 'Rape' Comments Aside

Article excerpt

For months, China's netizens and state media have bantered about the entertainment value of a possible US presidential contest pitting Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton.

Now that this matchup is all but certain, the tone of levity is sobering up.

In recent days, Chinese academics have started to seriously debate the trade-offs for China of Trump vs. Clinton. Nearly all agree that the stakes are immense, given that the United States is China's biggest trading partner and also the biggest check on its ambitions as a world power.

"Many Chinese view Trump as kind of a joke, but that is starting to change," says Wang Yiwei, director of the Renmin University Institute of International Affairs.

People are warming to Mr. Trump, he says, because of his support for a more isolationist US foreign policy. "They think the US is too involved with the world," he says.

Yet Chinese views are rarely uniform on any topic, and on the US election, they vary according to gender and nationalist instincts, among other factors. On social media, many women have celebrated the historic nature of Mrs. Clinton's candidacy. She also is more of a known quantity than Trump.

As a presidential candidate in 2008 and later as US Secretary of State, Clinton was critical of China's human rights record. In September, she caused an international stir when she tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping was "shameless" for speaking at an international women's conference while persecuting feminists at home.

Such comments have not made Clinton popular here, either among government leaders or netizens.

"Hillary will definitely make things difficult for China," read one comment on Weibo, China's main social media platform. Many academics agree, predicting that if Clinton became president, she would be far more aggressive than President Obama in seeking to contain Beijing's influence in the South China Sea and other parts of Asia. …

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