By now you would think Donald Trump had made a lot of enemies in China.
After all, he chose right from the start of his presidential campaign to give China a starring role in his populist rants on what's wrong with the American economy.
According to the Donald Trump campaign, China is one of the chief culprits for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past few decades.
And he says China takes advantage of the United States on trade.
"America fully opened its markets to China but China has not reciprocated," Trump says on his campaign website. "Its Great Wall of Protectionism uses unlawful tariff and non-tariff barriers to keep American companies out of China and to tilt the playing field in their favor."
Trump has also accused China of manipulating its currency, the yuan.
Donald Trump's Harsh Language on China
"Economists estimate the Chinese yuan is undervalued by anywhere from 15% to 40%," Trump says on his website. "This grossly undervalued yuan gives Chinese exporters a huge advantage while imposing the equivalent of a heavy tariff on U.S. exports to China. Such currency manipulation, in concert with China's other unfair practices, has resulted in chronic U.S. trade deficits, a severe weakening of the U.S. manufacturing base and the loss of tens of millions of American jobs."
Donald Trump talks about China so often in his speeches and media interviews that some intrepid soul made a three-minute YouTube video out of snippets of Trump uttering the word "China."
But many Chinese, strangely enough, are quite fond of Donald Trump. A March poll by the Chinese tabloid Global Times showed Trump has a higher favorability rating – 54% — there than he does in the United States. (The latest RealClearPolitics average shows only 29.4% of voters in the U.S. view Trump favorably.)
As it happens, the Chinese have some pretty good reasons for liking Donald Trump in 2016…
Why the Chinese Don't Hate Donald Trump
For the most part, the Chinese view Donald Trump's anti-China talk as just that – talk. The Chinese realize that U.S. politicians tell people what they want to hear to get elected, but typically don't follow through.
"Policies are not rhetoric. Personalities count. China is extremely good with dealing with leaders that have large egos, who are full of themselves, and who can be flattered and courted," James Mann, an author who has written several books on China, told CNN.
Plus, China tends to be a pragmatic nation. And in Donald Trump they see more of a problem solver than a threat.
"Why isn't China worried about Mr. Trump's threat of high tariffs on their exports to the U.S.? Because he's also said he's a deal-maker. They think they can make a deal to preserve what they have in the U.S.-China relationship while a Trump administration retreats from world economic leadership," Derek Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Beast.
Some Chinese also seem to have a fascination for Trump's celebrity. His reality TV show "The Apprentice" has been popular in China for years. And many admire Trump's wealth and success as a businessman – not to mention his outspoken style.
"He speaks out of line, and that appeals to me," Lai Quanzhong, a member of a Chinese "Trump Fan Club," told The New York Times, adding that "even for those who don't understand American elections, they just can't avoid listening to what he says."
Another trait appealing to the Chinese is his authoritarian nature. In Chinese politics, the strong prevail. And the Chinese view Trump as a "strongman" in the mold of some of their own leaders, such as President Xi Jinping.
Meanwhile, the Chinese officials, while often critical of Trump in the government-controlled media, have their own reasons to root for a Trump presidency.
Even China's Leaders Would Prefer a President Trump
For one thing, Donald Trump is not Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.
Clinton is well-known but not well-liked among China's leadership. As secretary of state, Clinton often was critical of China on human rights as well as its attempts to establish control over the South China Sea.
China's leaders also view Clinton as more rigid than Trump, who they believe will be more open to negotiation on a range of Sino-American issues.
But what intrigues China's leaders most about Donald Trump are some of the references he's made to scaling back America's global military presence. He often complains on the campaign trail of the billions of dollars America spends to help protect other advanced nations in Europe and Asia.
"China's great project is to try to undermine America's alliances in Asia. And if you have someone in the White House that says this is open to negotiation… that's really good news in Beijing," Jennifer Harris, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Daily Beast.
So while Donald Trump will continue to launch verbal broadsides against China right up through the election in November, don't be surprised if Beijing quietly celebrates a Trump victory.
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- The Daily Beast: China Endorses Donald Trump
- CNN: Why China May Cheer a Trump Presidency and Dread a Clinton One
- The New York Times: Donald Trump, Despite Bashing Beijing, Is Not Without Fans in China