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Chinese React To 'Unconventional' Rhetoric In U.S. Election

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Whoever moves into the White House next, his or her policies will not only affect Americans, but people around the world.

ZHANG YUANAN: There were a lot of things done in the past eight years. For example, it's much easier to get a U.S. visa for the Chinese citizens. It's faster. It's more convenient.

CORNISH: Zhang Yuanan is a reporter with the Chinese news organization Caixin Media. She says her readers want to know how a new administration will build on what President Obama has done. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vowed to take a tougher stance on trade with China. A few months ago, Trump said that, quote, "we can't continue to allow China to rape our country." I asked Zhang how familiar Chinese are with the candidates.

ZHANG: Hillary Clinton is very famous in China. Almost everyone knows about her, no matter for young people or old people. Donald Trump is relatively unknown, until he began to run for president. Some young people might have watched the TV show "Apprentice" online, but most people, I would say, except maybe some Chinese commercial real estate developers, most people don't know about him.

CORNISH: And then I mentioned that line about China he used back in May using the word rape. I mean, how does rhetoric like that play in China?

ZHANG: I think some people feel angry about it because it's such a negative word. But I think most people recognize that the U.S. and China have a lot of issues, for example, the trade issues, currency issues, intellectual theft issues, cybersecurity issues. I don't think the U.S. government and the Chinese government are hiding from those things. They're trying to use all opportunities to solve those issues.

For example, our president Xi Jinping visited the United States last September, and both governments are using the U.S.-China strategic and economic dialogue to solve all those issues. So for Chinese people, we know what kind of issues the Chinese government is trying to solve, but the rhetoric is very unconventional, that we - we've never heard from a U.S. presidential candidate.

CORNISH: What is their response to the idea that both of these candidates want to curb trade with China? What are people in China saying about that?

ZHANG: I think the most interesting thing is whether those remarks about trade issues are practical. When I was in Cleveland, there was a young man who was selling socks very close to the convention center. And on the package, he printed designed in the USA, made in China until America is great again. And he said he is a Trump supporter, but he went to China. The cost for manufacturing that pair of socks - everything included like that tariffs, packaging labels - the cost would be 160. And he said, I also considered doing that in the USA, but the cost will be 11 or $12 a pair.

CORNISH: So it sounds like the view from China is easier said than done.

ZHANG: Yes.

CORNISH: We noted that state media at times seems to enjoy poking fun at Trump, that he's been pointed to by some communist leaders as like a reason democracy is bad. Can you talk a little bit about that?

ZHANG: I think it's an interesting time because before we saw Britain exit Europe - and that is by a referendum. And now we look at Trump. And Trump make the - all these kind of remarks about women, about Muslims, about immigrants, and he is chosen by votes. They are selected by the party members. So in China, a lot of people are asking this question whether democracy is good. And by the candidates that they have chosen, can we say that it's better than our system?

CORNISH: Zhang Yuanan - she covers the U.S. election for the Chinese news organization Caixin Media. Thank you for coming in.

ZHANG: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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