US election: Chinese, expats follow the action on CNN in a Beijing bar

Keegan Elmer
·4-min read

Chinese businesswoman Claire Li had to queue for a seat at a packed US election watch party at a Beijing pub on Wednesday morning.

Like many Chinese, she was keen to follow the closely fought contest between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and incumbent leader Donald Trump.

“I hope Trump will win,” said Li, who works for an iron ore trading company in the Chinese capital.

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“I’m just very interested in politics, and to me this is an exciting event,” she said, before finally being allowed inside The Local, to join 80 or so other expats and Chinese to watch CNN’s coverage in English.

Li said another four years of Trump would be better for China than a Biden victory.

“I think the trade war has not hurt China too much. I think it would be worse for China to have a new president, with new policies. We know what to expect from Trump now,” she said.

A Chinese customer in the bar, who asked not to be named, said he was only there as a favour to his friend.

“It’s all very interesting, but I’m pretty indifferent,” he said. “My friend has been pretty excited about the election for a while.”

Other Chinese took to Weibo, the Twitter-like social media platform, to air their views on the election and the broader subject of US-China relations.

Some poked fun at a post by Robert Forden, charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Beijing, who said the US would continue to seek a “fair, balanced and reciprocal relationship with China”, regardless of who won the election.

“Fair, balanced and reciprocal with China? Do you really believe that?” one person said.

Another expressed support for America’s incumbent leader, saying: “Go President Trump! Trump talks like a real person, he’s down to earth and funny.”

A restaurant worker watches Donald Trump give a speech on television. Photo: EPA-EFE
A restaurant worker watches Donald Trump give a speech on television. Photo: EPA-EFE

Chinese news outlets reported the various results as they rolled in but provided little commentary. During its coverage, state broadcaster CCTV showed footage of violent clashes between Trump and Biden supporters in Washington, and said the election had broken fundraising records.

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Chinese tabloid Global Times posted a video of some US business owners boarding up their properties in anticipation of election day unrest.

“This kind of unrest is usually a complication of elections in poor countries, but people are worried it may happen in the US,” he said.

US election 2020: world braces for America’s vote

Another CCTV report about the US exiting the Paris climate accord rose to second on Weibo’s top 10 list of its most popular stories.

“In recent years, the US government has been addicted to ‘leaving groups’ and ‘breaking agreements,” the broadcaster said in the post.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the American poll.

“The US elections are the internal affairs of the United States, and China does not have any position on the issue,” spokesman Wang Wenbin told a press conference.

In the south China city of Guangzhou, about 200 people attended a watch party at the US consulate.

“Public participation in government is the essence of democracy,” consul general Jim Levy said. “We have not just a right but a duty to participate.”

The guests were also given a mock ballot and asked to choose either Biden and Trump for president, as well as vote on two questions about life in Guangzhou: should there be more women-only carriages on the subway and should people be given the day off on Singles’ Day?

A local blogger, surnamed Yu, was among the guests. He said he was curious about the election and wanted to see the results as they came in.

“I think Trump is more fun, and I hope he wins,” he said.

Additional reporting by Wendy Wu, Jun Mai, Catherine Wong and Guo Rui

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