The Chinese are not exactly the only people that Donald Trump has insulted. But China is a favorite punching bag of Trump’s, a jumping-off point for the Republican presidential candidate to emphasize his tough-minded negotiating skills and criticize Obama for having a feeble foreign policy. ("I beat China all the time," Trump has said.)
In campaign speeches, Donald Trump has blamed China for stealing American jobs and breaking the rules. He has criticized China for currency manipulation and espionage, and proposed raising taxes on China "for each bad act" they commit. In July, he rebuked the White House for giving Chinese diplomats state dinners, saying they should be taken to McDonald’s instead.
The first debate for the Republican candidates last night was no exception. “This country is in big trouble. We don't win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody,” Trump said.
The Chinese have begun taking notice. While most Chinese people still seem to be unaware of who Trump is, a growing number of people in the Chinese media and on social media are discussing the baffling political figure.
Chinese comments center on Trump’s real estate empire, his wealth, his loud-mouthed commentary, and, of course, his hair, the fascination with which appears to transcend cultural and linguistic barriers. "This guy's hair's so strange. I thought it was Photoshopped at first," one Chinese social media user wrote.
Commenting on Trump’s statement that he would change his hair if he were elected president, one Chinese Internet user writes, “Can you change your head, too?”
Naturally, the Chinese are focused on Trump’s commentary about China.
The Chinese foreign ministry also defended against Trump’s allegations that China is “ripping” the U.S. After Trump vowed to retake millions of jobs that China had stolen, Chinese media picked up on and translated criticisms of Trump's statement by Alan Blinder, the former Federal Reserve vice chairman and a Princeton University economist. “It’s completely implausible,” Blinder had said of Trump’s plan.
Much of the reporting in the Chinese media has focused on explaining why America is entertaining Trump’s presidential aspirations.
In June, the Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Communist party, published an article titled: “The theme of Trump’s speech for running for president: I am really very rich.”
“What impresses American people the most about such a legendary business figure is not his unique philosophy of doing business, but rather his extravagant lifestyle … his inclination to flaunt his wealth, unpredictable way of doing things, and 'big mouth' personality,” the article says. “He is quite a controversial person.”
Other articles focus on the reasons Trump might be running for president, besides a desire to win. Some have commented that his campaign is just an effort to get more publicity before going back to being a business tycoon.
Yicai.com, the Web site of China Business Network, a financial media group, ran an article that said: "One of the purposes of running for president is to promote oneself, to become more famous, like Trump. … The nationwide exposure he gained is hard to measure in monetary terms."
As in the U.S., not everyone takes Trump seriously. “This dude does not seem to have a high educational level,” says one social media user.
But other Chinese commentators caution that Trump, with his hilarious commentary and extensive financial resources, might end up surprising people.
An article on online news site ChinaNews.com that calls Trump “America’s most ostentatious plutocrat” says: “Few people now believe Trump will be nominated as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate, let alone win the presidential election. However, as the richest presidential candidate, if Trump pours millions of dollars into TV campaigns, this plus his reputation and eloquence without doubt will make the political campaign of the Republican Party even more unpredictable. It is worth waiting to see who will be the ‘dark horse’ in the end.”
Xu Yangjingjing and Gu Jinglu in Beijing contributed to this report.