Election 2020

The Chinese Public Is Convinced Trump Will Win

The U.S. president is seen as a failure—but that helps China.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

Chinese tourists
Chinese tourists leave the exit of the Forbidden City in Beijing on Oct. 6. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese have a clear opinion on the likely electoral victor in the United States: President Donald Trump. When China’s Phoenix New Media covers the election on Weibo (a Chinese version of Twitter), the most liked comment is always “Chuan Jianguo [Trump] will surely win!”

Lots of Chinese bloggers refer to Trump as Dong Wang (懂王), “the Know-King,” which comes from him saying “nobody knows more about taxes than I do,” “nobody knows more about construction than I do,” and even “nobody knows much more about technology.” But this nickname is always used sarcastically, due to Trump’s failure in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the coronavirus hit the country, the United States has failed to protect its people, leaving them dealing with illness and financial crisis. In contrast, in China, where the pandemic originally started, daily new case numbers have been kept very low, and people are able to live relatively normal lives. Chinese media outlets never stop criticizing Trump’s woeful response to the pandemic, implying that democracy doesn’t always work. Emphasizing Trump’s failure could portray China as a more responsible nation, thus downplaying some of the domestic problems China is facing.

Another common Trump nickname is Chuan Jianguo (川建国), literally “Trump Builds China.” Many people believe that under Trump’s presidency, there has been continuous doubt about America’s global leadership and that China’s path to becoming a superpower is now clear. Many Chinese scholars and reporters thanked Trump for giving China four years to grow and rise up to power. Hu Xijin, the chief editor of the tabloid Global Times, once thanked Trump for his work to “help promote unity in China” on his personal Twitter.

Trump’s challenger Joe Biden gets much less media coverage in China, where he is usually called Baideng (白等)—it sounds similar to his name “Biden” in Chinese, and it means “wait in vain.” Ordinary Chinese barely know anything about him save for the news featuring his family’s business affairs in China, and they tend to think he has no shot in this presidential election. When the country’s propaganda machine constantly features Trump’s failures, many Chinese influencers and bloggers have openly endorsed Trump, as have some dissidents overseas, such as the blind activist Chen Guangcheng. Many Chinese opposed to Communist Party rule see Trump as their savior.

[For more of FP’s coverage on the 2020 U.S. election, check out Postcards From the Wedge, our series on how niche foreign-policy issues are playing out in key battleground races, The World’s Election, our collection of articles on how other countries are watching the Nov. 3 vote, and What We’re Missing, a set of daily takes from leading global thinkers on foreign-policy issues not getting enough attention during the campaign.]

Tracy Wen Liu is an author, reporter, and translator.

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