America can't pry its eyes away from the Republican National Convention. Nor, it seems, can China's Foreign Ministry.
On Thursday morning, Asia time, state media published a rare official comment on the U.S. presidential election, blasting the GOP for making "groundless accusations" in its party platform and urging "rational" discussion.
On Thursday night in Cleveland, Donald Trump had the chance to impress them with his — as Xinhua put it —"objective" stance. Did the Donald deliver?
From the perspective of China's leaders, likely not. But it could have definitely been worse (for them).
The Republican Party's official platform includes a lot of things the ruling Communist Party hates. It challenges Beijing's South China Sea claims, for one, and says that China's rulers use the issue to distract from economic problems. It also references "cultural genocide" in Tibet and Xinjiang and mentions weapons sales to Taiwan. Trump mentioned none of these on Thursday night.
China featured prominently in Trump's early debate appearances. In August of last year, for instance, he referenced the country six times over the course of one evening, conjuring a China that was always winning at America's expense. He referenced China so much — and in such a distinctive drawl — that someone made a mashup of him saying "China" ("Chiiiina") over and over and over again.
Trump's speech last night made just three references to China — and all were couched in economic terms.
First, Trump claimed he, unlike Hillary Clinton, would keep jobs in the country and "make America rich again" by moving away from "bad trade deals."
"She supported NAFTA, and she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization — another one of her husband's colossal mistakes and disasters," he said.
He then vowed to take a tougher stand on trade violations. Trump said he would stop China's "outrageous theft of intellectual property," "illegal dumping" and "devastating currency manipulation," adding, for emphasis, "They are the greatest that ever came about; they are the greatest currency manipulators ever!"
Before turning to tax, he promised to renegotiate trade deals, including with China. "Our country is going to start building and making things again," he said.
By Friday afternoon, Asia time, there was no official reaction from the Chinese side. They can't like the tone or tenor of his comments, but, for now, they're probably glad he didn't bring up the three T's — Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen — or the 45 percent tariff he proposed for imported Chinese goods
In April, that proposal drew tough words from China's finance minister, Lou Jiwei. That Donald Trump is an "irrational type," he said.
Xu Jing contributed reporting from Beijing.