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Friday, May 27, 2016, 10:33

Probing Chinese interest in US race

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya
Probing Chinese interest in US race
Satarupa Bhattacharjya. (Photo / China Daily)

I know what you are thinking, encouraged perhaps by the fuzzy headline, but this isn't about the government in Beijing.

The column is based on responses of common Chinese to the ongoing primaries in the United States, a process that is scheduled to culminate in a presidential vote on Nov 8.

I recently asked a few acquaintances in Beijing and Shanghai, aged between 19 and 39, what they thought of presidential front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I also wanted to bring Bernard Sanders into our conversations but found most knew less about him.

Similarly, my navigational tours of Chinese social media led me to posts on "Trumplings" (sold on his tough-guy image) and "old lady" Clinton more than "Bernie," who according to a CBS News/NYT poll was the favored candidate of many Americans they surveyed over May 13-17.

At this point though, indications are that the 74-year-old incumbent senator - having made a strong pitch this cycle - will likely have to leave the race to fellow Democrat Clinton and her foe-in-chief, Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee. Will Sanders run independent? We don't know yet.

"He is very aggressive. Maybe it's a personal show," said the owner of a live-music venue on a Beijing hutong (alleyway), of Trump's campaign remarks, especially on China. "But he may become president."

The interviewee calls himself "69" after the Woodstock concert that year.

Trump, also 69 (age-wise), is a wealthy businessman who once invested in beauty pageants, and has said many things since announcing his candidacy in June.

He wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, deport many from his country, ban others, launch a trade war with China and take back jobs outsourced to countries like India. And, all this in the single-minded pursuit of his goal: "Make America great again!"

His utterances are rhetorical, mostly intended to fetch voter attention, a university student in Beijing told me. Pu Linyan also called Trump's slogan "ambitious".

Huang Xianwen, another university student in the city, said Trump's ideas about global trade would hurt the US economy if he's elected and holds onto them.

Clinton, 68, is more appealing to the two young women and a third, accounting student Zhang Yunting, solely based on gender.

While one told me she doesn't know enough about Clinton to comment on her China policy, another said she is skeptical. But separately they declared geopolitics would be far more interesting with the former secretary of state as the first female US president.

Two students also described US President Barack Obama as "handsome" and an effective communicator on the world stage.

Yes, term end makes people emotional even in regular offices - why just a presidency?

But to others, like Shanghai-based Fudan University professor Fan Ruoen, a new person in the White House, far away from his country, wouldn't change his life.

Post-script: Long ago when I tried to watch an episode of The Apprentice, the reality TV show that Trump used to host, I got bored fairly quickly.

A revisit looks imminent.

Contact the writer at satarupa@chinadaily.com.cn

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