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A “granny” versus a “bastard”: How China viewed the US presidential debate

Reuters/Rick Wilking
Fair enough.
By Zheping Huang, Echo Huang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

China was a key topic during the first US presidential debate, mostly thanks to Republican candidate Donald Trump’s blame game.

Trump mentioned the word “China” nine times during the 90 minute debate, while Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said it just three times. The Republican candidate accused China of manipulating its currency, claimed the US is China’s “piggy bank,” denied earlier remarks that climate change is a China-led coax, and said Beijing was accountable for cyber attacks to the US and the North Korea crisis. Clinton’s China remarks were mostly about her past political performance, including raising the US’s exports to China.

So who do Chinese people think won the debate then? Judging from an ongoing poll on Weibo, it’s almost a tie with Clinton taking a slight lead as of 4pm Hong Kong time on Sept. 26.

China’s citizens have shown before that they may like to mock Trump, but actually fear Hillary.

It was hard to watch the debate in China. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, platforms where non-US audience were most likely to follow the debate, were blocked. Foreign news sites were not blocked by Chinese censors, but hard to find.

CCTV’s debate graphic.

China’s state media didn’t live-broadcast the debate, although some publications live-blogged (link in Chinese) the event using text and photos. CCTV, the state broadcaster, used a fearsome photo to advertise its  live-stream on Weibo (all links below in Chinese, registration required) and promised up close coverage, then mostly just showed a reporter wandering the media center of the debate venue. The debate is a fight ”between the two most unwelcome American politicians,” CCTV said on the livestream, then went black shortly after the debate began.

State newswire Xinhu accused Clinton of “playing the family card” by mentioning her grandchild  in her opening remarks, then didn’t show the debate. Still, about 240,000 people viewed a page with the hashtag “US presidential Election” on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

The topic that got the most attention was Trump blaming China for taking jobs from the US, which was shown in a 5-minute clip posted by state newspaper China Daily on Weibo.

“You must realize that those stolen jobs are the ones that Americans don’t want to do,” one Weibo user commented under the post, adding that Trump’s words are only to attract votes and won’t be fulfilled when he’s elected. ”Hehe, his mind cannot be changed. As long as he’s happy,” another said.

Most Chinese internet users discussing the debates were making fun of the two candidates. ”A quarrel between a grandpa and a granny can’t make things clear,” one Weibo user commented under a news post. “The better solution for them is to pull each others’ hair.” One candidate is like “crap-taste chocolate” and the other is like “chocolate-taste crap,” another blogger wrote, so it’s extremely hard to elect a president from them. Others made jokes about the contest, like:

“Hilary: Do you hate this grandson of a turtle Trump? Then pick me!”
“Trump: Do you hate this old woman? Then pick me!”
After the fastest presidential debate ever, Obama continues being president.

(The phrase “grandson of a turtle” is used like “son of a bitch,” or “bastard.”)

Viewers also appreciated the irony that state news was covering a democratic debate at all, given the country’s autocratic government doesn’t allow voting for national leaders. “I really don’t know why CCTV is concerned with this debate,” user What can Zhi do commented. “It’s like someone who doesn’t have a penis being jealous of his neighbor having sex.”

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