Chinese internet users hail ‘Comrade Donald Trump’ for driving reforms

Jane Cai

US President Donald Trump may have his critics in China, but some internet users have suggested, albeit sarcastically, that he has been a positive force for the country, acting almost as a catalyst for much-needed reforms.

In social media circles and even on some academic forums, the American leader has been referred to as Comrade “Chuan Jianguo”, which translates as “Trump Building the Nation”. The backhanded compliment stems from the assumption that by starting a trade war with China, Trump coincidentally forced the country into a programme of domestic reforms to counter its impact.

Such is people’s familiarity with the nickname that Wang Manchuan, head of the public administration department at China’s Central Party School, used it on Wednesday at a seminar about China’s development priorities after the party’s fourth plenum.

“Chinese internet users call Trump ‘Chuan Jianguo’,” he said. “[But] China’s top priority is to handle its own matters well, and the fourth plenum, of course, discussed China-US relations, but Trump is not important enough that he needs to be written into the fourth plenum documents.”

Wang was referring to the fourth plenary meeting of the most senior members of the Communist Party held in Beijing last month.

“China’s advantage is that it can be selective, so we will draw lessons from the useful systems of the West, but we will not fully accept them,” he said.

As the strategic rivalry between Beijing and Washington has intensified, internet users have used the name Chuan Jianguo as a way to ridicule Trump’s policies for hurting American interests and benefiting China.

Besides the trade war, the two countries have seen tensions rising in the arenas of technological competition, the South China Sea, human rights in Xinjiang, and protest-hit Hong Kong.

Wang Xiaoguang, deputy head of the economics department at the Central Party School, said that the US government’s restrictions on Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, for instance, had been a catalyst for the development of China’s domestic supply chains, research and development and innovation.

“China’s import expo has been another step to expand its opening up to the outside world,” he said.

“China’s reform and opening up cannot be slowed, and it must be accelerated … From this perspective, Trump has helped China a lot.”

On social media, some people have suggested that Trump is a “spy” sent by Beijing to the US and that the impeachment inquiry against him is a way to weaken the US.

“If China is able to turn this trade war crisis into an opportunity to deepen reform and opening up, and concentrate its efforts on helping China to handle its own affairs well, then I really have to thank Comrade Chuan Jianguo,” a person said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

On Zhihu, the Chinese equivalent to Quora, a person said that Trump had helped promote China’s interests through such things as saying in 2017 that Korea “actually used to be a part of China” and by pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, thereby giving China more influence on the world stage.

Online memes include images of Trump with his fist in the air and the caption: “Although I am wearing Western clothes, my heart is Chinese.”

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