Like many around the world who are coming to grips with a Trump presidency, ordinary Chinese are also trying to make sense of the events taking place across the Pacific. At The Washington Post, Wang Lixiong writes that the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States has raised questions in the minds of Chinese liberals about the model of democracy that the United States is presenting to the world.
Chinese like me — pro-democracy liberals — have been pushing for years to end the one-party dictatorship in our country. Most of us long regarded the U.S. political system as a model. Now, with the presidential election of Donald Trump, a man whose grasp of both democratic concepts and ethical norms is questionable, we have been forced to ask some hard new questions.
[…] If the United States, a model for democracy in the world, can elect a Trump, why wouldn’t such a result be even more likely in China, where popular education in civic values and in the nation’s history is much weaker? Fifty years ago, Mao brought immeasurable disaster to China, but today, after years of Communist Party work to erase history and stimulate nationalism, Mao, in the popular Chinese imagination, is regarded as a hero. If Mao were to stand for election in China today, he would win in a landslide.
In the United States, Trump will have to work within a mature system of checks and balances and will have to step down in either four years or eight. A Chinese Trump, on the other hand, would almost certainly turn into a Chinese Putin. It would not be surprising to see the Han Chinese, who make up more than 90 percent of the population, use democracy to suppress ethnic minorities, to launch an attack on Taiwan, or to bully Hong Kong. It is not beyond imagination that a Trump-style stimulation of popular passions in China could lead by democratic vote to support for launching a war on the United States.
The Washington Post’s Emily Rauhala spoke with Chinese PhD student Yin Hao, who has a passion for American politics, about his views on the rise of populism in the U.S., providing yet another perspective on what ordinary Chinese people think of the Trump phenomenon.
Yin, a 30-year-old PhD student, spent the Obama era obsessing over U.S. politics. When he’s not conducting doctoral research on 3-D printing or singing karaoke, he translates American news and comedy clips, sharing his work with about 800,000 followers on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site.
[…] Yin’s analysis? American journalists, he thinks, blinded by their confidence in American exceptionalism overestimated the strength of U.S. institutions and underestimated grass-roots rage.
[…] From the perspective of one-party China, he argues that the two-party system fuels populist politics, turning democracy into a personality contest. “For too long, the press focused on Trump’s personality and missed the real story — Trump’s supporters,” he said.
To understand “Make America Great Again,” Yin looks to home. Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has promised the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” a slogan with similar appeal.
Both messages are both, at their core, conservative, Yin said. They portray “a world in decay, where things will go bad if they do nothing.”
“Good things always happen yesterday. They must preserve and protect. It’s about national pride, traditional values and military might,” he said. [Source]
See also a Global Times video featuring children in China giving their views on America’s new president.