Tea Leaf Nation

Ivanka Trump Posted 650 Times on Chinese Social Media

But the Weibo selfies, humble brags, and brand placements stopped a month before her father's run.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21:  Ivanka Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Ivanka Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and a full-throated advocate for his candidacy, is surely familiar with her father’s statements about China, including his assertion that Chinese traders were out to “rape our country.” But before her father declared his intention to run, the younger Trump spent approximately two and a half years building a brand of her own on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. Across over 600 posts, she interacted directly with users, promoted her and her father’s brands, and built a following of over 19,000 until abruptly stopping just a month shy of her father’s declaration of his run for President.

The younger Trump’s Chinese online persona was mostly commercial. Her first Weibo post in Nov. 2012 introduced her as “An American wife, mother, and entrepreneur.” Two months later, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Collection opened its first branch in Beijing. From Nov. 2012 to until May 2015, when she abruptly ceased her activity, Trump posted to Weibo 650 times. Posts consisted of lifestyle, travel photos, selfies, family pictures, chatter about the younger Trump’s jewelry and clothing line, and nods to the Trump real estate business.

Like her father, Ivanka first became known to most of her Chinese fans as a guest on reality series The Apprentice, popular among Chinese audiences in the mid-2010s. (While it never officially aired on Chinese television, The Apprentice was widely viewed on social video platforms and shared on online forums.) “I admire your dad and have been watching The Apprentice for years. But I like you the most,” wrote one user in May under an old Ivanka Trump post. According to Baidu Index, which tracks search trends on China’s most popular search engine, users searching for the Chinese transliteration of “Trump” are almost as likely to be looking for Ivanka as they are for Donald.

Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and a full-throated advocate for his candidacy, is surely familiar with her father’s statements about China, including his assertion that Chinese traders were out to “rape our country.” But before her father declared his intention to run, the younger Trump spent approximately two and a half years building a brand of her own on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. Across over 600 posts, she interacted directly with users, promoted her and her father’s brands, and built a following of over 19,000 until abruptly stopping just a month shy of her father’s declaration of his run for President.

The younger Trump’s Chinese online persona was mostly commercial. Her first Weibo post in Nov. 2012 introduced her as “An American wife, mother, and entrepreneur.” Two months later, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Collection opened its first branch in Beijing. From Nov. 2012 to until May 2015, when she abruptly ceased her activity, Trump posted to Weibo 650 times. Posts consisted of lifestyle, travel photos, selfies, family pictures, chatter about the younger Trump’s jewelry and clothing line, and nods to the Trump real estate business.

Like her father, Ivanka first became known to most of her Chinese fans as a guest on reality series The Apprentice, popular among Chinese audiences in the mid-2010s. (While it never officially aired on Chinese television, The Apprentice was widely viewed on social video platforms and shared on online forums.) “I admire your dad and have been watching The Apprentice for years. But I like you the most,” wrote one user in May under an old Ivanka Trump post. According to Baidu Index, which tracks search trends on China’s most popular search engine, users searching for the Chinese transliteration of “Trump” are almost as likely to be looking for Ivanka as they are for Donald.

While Trump provided no reason for stepping away from Weibo – her representatives did not respond to a request for immediate comment – it’s fair to surmise that the U.S. Presidential election played a part. Ms. Trump ceased microblogging in China just weeks before her father announced his candidacy in June 2015. While Donald Trump has railed against trade with China, Robert Lawrence, a Harvard professor studying trade and investment, discovered that hundreds of items from Ivanka Trump’s extensive clothing and accessory lines listed on the Trump Organization’s website were manufactured in China. After the disclosure, the Ivanka Trump Collection has been removed from the “Merchandise” section of the organization’s website. The younger Trump’s business interests as an executive at her father’s company may not exactly jibe with the elder Trump’s politics. “She understands that [Donald] Trump’s insistence on political incorrectness is probably not the best thing for business,” Nick Morrow, a Democratic strategist, told Cosmopolitan in Oct. 2015. “You don’t really want to alienate anyone.”

Few Chinese web users seem to care much about Trump’s campaign strategy or its implications for global policy. In July, a user on popular question and answer forum Zhihu called the Ivy League-educated Ivanka “an advanced version of Donald Trump” capable of winning over “adult men, feminists, Jews (such as her husband), housewives, elite intellectuals, people from the fashion industry, and liberals.” It doesn’t seem to matter that Ivanka has been silent on Weibo for a year — Li Mu, a conservative columnist with over 375,000 Weibo followers of his own, wrote in June 2016 that he recommended following Ivanka’s Weibo account anyway: “If you care about physical appearance, come check out her pretty face. If you care about family, come check out (pictures of) her babies. If you care about business, come read posts by a female CEO.”

John Moore/Getty Images

Lotus Ruan is a contributor to FP's Tea Leaf Nation. 

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