Chinese greeted Donald Trump’s victory with a mix of optimism and bemusement Wednesday, unsure how the US president-elect who demonised their country on the campaign trail would approach it once in office.
Communist-ruled China does not hold competitive elections of its own, and while most of Beijing went about its daily business, a few small groups of die-hard political fans gathered to watch the results come in.
Many started off expecting a win for Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and were surprised to see the businessman take an early lead in polling.
At an event hosted by the US Embassy, two rooms full of people cheered excitedly when CNN announced Clinton had won California.
“That was expected,” a moderator, tasked with explaining the intricacies of the US election system, tersely informed them.
But as Trump’s victory looked assured, many in the room argued that the former reality TV star’s experience in business meant he would prioritise economic relations over thorny questions about security and human rights that they associated with Clinton’s time as secretary of state.
Despite Trump’s campaign promises to hit Chinese-made goods with a 45 percent tariff, teacher Zhang Meiyang said she thought “he will have some very friendly foreign policies towards China“.
Graduate student Ren Hong, 36, told AFP she found Trump “friendly, but also aggressive”.
He “might be a good president” domestically, she said, but was less sure how his presidency would affect her country.
“I think that he must take some actions that are not beneficial for China… but I think it’s a good chance for both China and America to build a new relationship,” she said.
Under Barack Obama, China and the United States have been at loggerheads over a wide range of issues including the South China Sea, cybersecurity and the Asian giant’s trade policies.
Solutions for massive global issues, such as climate change, will be unreachable without cooperation between the world’s two largest economies.
At the Bridge Cafe in Beijing’s student district of Wudaokou, not far from the campuses of China‘s two most prestigious universities, students ate paninis and plates of bacon and eggs as they watched a live-stream of the election results.
“You don’t really know who to trust, so I’m just treating it as a kind of show and am just enjoying the process without caring about the result,” said Ariel Zhang, 30, flipping through photos on social media comparing Trump’s golden bouffant hairdo to the wisps on a corn cob.
Piano student Liu Xiaofan, 24, questioned whether Trump voters had really thought through their decision.
“They keep saying that Trump will usher in a new era but many people don’t understand,” she said, adding: “They just hear what he says at his speeches and then it’s like their brain lights up, and they just follow whatever he says.”
Near Shanghai’s Jing An Temple, resident Dai Liyan predicted the election result would devastate the economy.
It “will mainly affect the market,” she said.
“With a president with a bad image, the US dollar could weaken, this kind of thing. I have a friend who bought gold to hedge the risk.”
But many online users felt the change of leadership boded well for their country’s future — after newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing he reoriented his foreign policy towards China.
“I have to say, China‘s national luck is really good!” said one user on the popular microblogging site Weibo.