Trump’s conviction sparks interest, schadenfreude in China

The news of Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records quickly spread across China’s heavily censored social media platforms…reports Asian Lite News

The historic conviction of Donald Trump on Thursday, marking the first time a former US president has been convicted of a felony generated significant interest and a fair amount of schadenfreude in China, CNN reported.

As an authoritarian superpower on the rise, China has long sought to portray its political system as superior to American democracy. Trump’s trial, while serving as a boon to China’s narrative, also presents a potential window into something previously unimaginable and dangerous to the ruling Chinese Communist Party: an elected leader held accountable by independent courts and prosecutors, and convicted by a jury of peers.

For months, Chinese propagandists have sought to leverage Trump’s legal challenges to bolster Beijing’s narrative of a declining United States, citing the prolonged legal battle as evidence of the polarisation and dysfunction in American politics.

The news of Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records quickly spread across China’s heavily censored social media platforms.

On Weibo, often referred to as China’s X-like platform, the verdict became the top trending topic, garnering over 120 million views by the afternoon.

Comments on the platform reflected a mix of reactions.

One top comment under a news brief by state news agency Xinhua urged Trump’s supporters to mobilise and storm the Capitol, while another referred to him as “Comrade Nation Builder Trump,” sarcastically suggesting his policies were inadvertently aiding China’s global ambitions.

Throughout his presidency, Trump earned the nickname “Chuan Jianguo,” or “Trump, the (Chinese) nation builder,” for his isolationist foreign policy and divisive domestic agenda, which some interpreted as beneficial to China’s rise.

Nationalist influencers on Chinese social media platforms gleefully mocked the verdict, with one blogger boasting 4 million followers suggesting, “It seems that in 2024, a civil war in America is not just a dream!”

“Although he is guilty, he can still run for president. A ‘criminal’ can become president – this is the ridiculous aspect of Western-style democracy,” said another.

Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times, chimed in on Weibo, remarking that Chinese people were watching the spectacle with amusement.

“Naturally, Chinese people are watching the spectacle with amusement,” he said on Weibo. “Here’s what everyone is most concerned about: First, will Trump actually go to jail? Second, can he still run for president?”

However, analysts warn that Trump’s conviction could pose a delicate situation for Chinese state propagandists.

“On the one hand, it highlights a rotting and fracturing American democracy. On the other hand, it highlights that a former top leader can be arrested, put on trial, judged by jury of peers and convicted, for relatively small acts of corruption,” wrote Bill Bishop, a China watcher and author of the Sinocism newsletter.

The timing of Trump’s conviction, just days before the 35th anniversary of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, adds to the sensitivity of the issue, according to observers.

While Chinese state media outlets have refrained from publishing scathing commentaries, as seen in previous coverage of Trump’s legal troubles, analysts predict that the coverage in the days ahead is unlikely to attack Trump directly but rather highlight flaws in the US system.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, suggests that Chinese state media will tread cautiously in their coverage, aiming to showcase the shortcomings of the US system without directly attacking Trump.

“They don’t want to attack Donald Trump because if he becomes the president, they know the consequences. Instead, they’re likely to use it to showcase the problems of the US system,” said Wu, a former reporter in China, CNN reported. (ANI)

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