The rise of Donald Trump as the US Republican Party’s presidential candidate has made Chinese experts wonder how a businessman who was often ridiculed could have bested veteran politicians and is now just one step away from the presidency, official media said today.
While Chinese netizens remain skeptical about Trump and the US political system, scholars are surprised with the strength of the anti-establishment sentiment, state-run Global Times reported.
“At the very beginning, we didn’t expect American disgust with Washington and WallStreet to have such a powerful impact on the US general election,” said Jin Canrong, deputy director of the Center of American Studies at the Renmin University of China.
Jin said he believed the growing wealth gap and the slowing economy in the US has led to Trump’s growing support, besides his brashness which separates him from traditional politicians.
Initially the mainstream in China believed that the election would pit members of two of the US’ elite political families the Hillary Clinton and Jeff Bush.
Even Chinese officials have downplayed Trump’s role, though he has repeatedly made unfriendly remarks about China.
Jin admitted that most scholars, whether from China or the US, were wrong about Trump and they also ignored the strength of populism to some extent.
He said that observers thought Trump’s base revolved around undereducated, lower-class and radical white people.
“But now we discovered Trump could also attract many voters from the silent majority “who found his outspoken style and negativity make him look very different from traditional politicians,” Jin said.
Wang Yiwei, a senior fellow of international relations at the Renmin University of China, said experts did not expect globalisation to have an effect on Western countries’ middle class political views.
Experts believed that the middle class played a role in stabilising society, but now the middle class prefers change.
This could be the reason why experts had not expected Trump to go this far, the report said.
Chinese netizens still consider Trump’s rise a comedy show.
Chinese website guancha.cn, which focuses on politics, social issues and Trump-related news stories, has feedback of Trump supporters who believe he “will mess up the US and allow China to overtake the US as soon as possible.”
Wang noted that the US people hold a very different view as they created something different in the political system.
The “Trump Phenomenon” shows that the US political system is not controlled by traditional elites and a person like Trump, who has no political background, could also have a chance to compete against Hillary Clinton, Wang said.
Song Luzheng, a research fellow at the China Institute of Fudan University, said it is the democratic system, not Trump, that should be blamed for the current mess in the election.