Beijing residents told the independently run South China Morning Post in a Wednesday feature that they found U.S. President Donald Trump “more honest than Obama” but “disrespectful.”
Trump is currently in Beijing on his visit to China as president, and the first visit of a foreign head of state to China since October’s Communist Party Congress, in which President Xi Jinping greatly consolidated his power over the country.
As China is a communist dictatorship, there is no guarantee that the opinions issued to the South China Morning Post are earnest. They echo the nation’s government-run media significantly.
“He’s an interesting person, more honest than Obama,” said Fei Danyang, a 42-year-old financial analyst, according to the newspaper. “He is no politician and has big ego … so his honesty is, in a disrespectful way, a bit self-righteous and ignorant of other people’s feelings.”
Fei joked that watching tensions between Democrats and the Trump administration was fun, saying, “It’s like we [in China] are just like watching a fire from across a river. The chaos is theirs. The more dramatic it gets, the more fun it is to watch.”
The Chinese government has repeatedly used its state media to claim that the West is in a state of “chaos,” as opposed to the “stability” of their communist tyranny.
64-year-old Li Dongsheng, a retired teacher at a military academy, told the newspaper that she liked Trump’s style.
“As a 71-year-old man, he is spirited and energetic. He pushes beyond his own boundaries and he takes up new challenges. I admire him for that.” Li is quoted as saying. “He has an outgoing personality and hates losing … I think his mental age is quite young.”
The positivity is perhaps surprising given Trump’s longstanding offensive against China, accusing them of “raping” the American economy and blaming them for the escalating nuclear crisis in North Korea.
Despite its usual tenor, Chinese state media has remained optimistic about Trump’s visit, with propaganda outlets such as the People’s Daily and Global Times writing positive editorials about the visit.
“In realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and protecting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, China and the United States have common interests,” an editorial in People’s Daily stated. “The two sides should respect one another’s interests, maintain close communication and consultation, and make unremitting efforts to promote a thorough resolution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.”
The Global Times meanwhile pointed to the quality of hospitality Trump will receive, which they described as “rarely seen in modern China.”
“Beijing’s enthusiasm reflects the most positive part of the attitude that the diversified world holds toward the U.S., and the realistic international outlook of the rising China.”
Freedom of speech remains a prominent issue in China, with people generally expected to toe the official Chinese Communist Party line. In recent years, the regime has also made increased efforts to contain free speech on the internet by introducing cyber-security laws designed to clamp down on any political dissidence taking place online.