Chinese 'netizens' and the US Presidential Election

02 November 2016

What do grassroots Chinese people think about the US election? Weibo and WeChat, the two dominant online social platforms in China, have provided a mixed answer.

The US-China relationship has featured prominently in the US election campaign trail. While Donald Trump has accused China of "raping" the US, Hillary Clinton has named the South China Sea territorial dispute as Washington's "national interest". Mainstream media in China is therefore unsurprisingly sceptical of both candidates; social media provides a different perspective.


Weibo is a microblog platform which is very similar to Twitter in that posts can be viewed by the public. The candidates have fan pages on the platform, both of which were flooded with comments after videos of the debates were uploaded.

The majority of Trump supporters seem to have adopted a personal approach. Posts state that Trump demonstrates the "leadership and capability to rebuild a strong America" and has "declared war" against the "corrupted Washington and its interested parties". Many praise him as "energetic" and "true", hoping that he will win the "tough battle". Trump's attitude against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a trade agreement excluding China, much to the chagrin of the Chinese public) was also welcomed.

Rather than praising Clinton's personality or policies, the former Secretary of State's Chinese supporters seem to focus mostly on the "catastrophe" and "chaos" Trump would bring to America. Trump's improper statements during the campaign trail are the preferred ammunition. The general consensus is that Clinton is a more sensitive and skilled politician while Trump is a mere "businessman".


WeChat is a private instant messenger with a Facebook-like function called "Moments". Posts on Moments are only open to selected friends.

Interestingly, most user opinions on Moments suggest a dislike for both candidates. Due to the platform's private nature, comments are generally more derogatory. A typical comment regarding the debates states: "The American Empire is so rubbish – they are neither civilised nor modern. I am so disappointed." It is pointed out that the American people may have a choice other than the two-party system, noting the improvement of the Spanish economy despite a lack of functioning government.


There is a clear mixture of views on the presidential election among Chinese grassroots 'netizens': the supporters of each side have demonstrated an equal level of power on Weibo, while many refuse to support either candidate on WeChat.

Following the mixture of views, there are a number of online posts mocking the two candidates and the election campaign. A frequently seen way of making such mockeries is to combine the video or screenshots of the debates with lyrics to mimic an old-style karaoke video. One of the most widely spread examples is a video of the candidates' debate combined with "Love in Storm" by Hong Kong singers Jacky Cheung and Karen Tong (the original song was for loving couples who quarrel).

Watching from afar, and conscious of the likely impact of the election on the Chinese economy and political strategy, members of the public have expressed their mixed views with a teasing attitude. The candidates are depicted as a quarrelling couple arguing in a very emotional (and probably not very sensible) way. The title of a recent article best summarises the situation: "The US is making a mockery of democracy, and China must be loving it". 

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