The view from Beijing: In China, Trump dominated reporting of the U.S. political campaign

Strong turnout for CCLP's Washington D.C. forum on "How China is Covering the U.S. Election," held on November 7.

WASHINGTON — Chinese media coverage of the U.S. election campaign was dominated by Donald Trump, according to two American journalists who have spent years in Asia.

Michael Ottey, a Beijing-based editor and writer at China Daily, said his Chinese colleagues argued every day for more coverage for Trump, and his role was to try to balance it with coverage of the Clinton campaign.

“I’d come into the newsroom,” explained Ottey, a former editor at the Miami Herald, “and reporters would always be saying, ‘Did you hear what Donald Trump said? We have to write about that.’”

Jim Laurie, a longtime international journalist who has spent many years reporting from Asia, showed a pre-election report on China’s largest-audience TV newscast that included brief excerpts of both Clinton’s and Trump’s most embarrassing moments during the campaign. Now a consultant whose clients have included both CCTV America and CCTV in China, he added that this was consistent with the Beijing leadership’s desire to show that “American-style democracy” was inferior to China’s “democratic socialism.”

“The elites want him [Trump] to win,” said Ottey, “because there would be more chaos than there is now in the U.S., and this would benefit China.”

And Trump did indeed enjoy broad support in China: Laurie cited a pre-election survey by the South China Morning Post showing that Trump has the support of 39% of the Chinese public.

“This approval rating among the Chinese is far different,” said Laurie, “than the 13% approval the same poll shows Trump getting in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.”

“At the Beijing airport,” said Ottey, “they were even selling Trump T shirts.”

Michael Ottey, a Beijing-based editor and writer at China Daily, and longtime international journalist Jim Laurie speak at CCLP’s Washington D.C. forum on Nov. 7

Ottey showed China Daily coverage from election eve that reported on Trump appealing to Chinese American voters and to the Chinese people, saying this was an example of  the Trump-centered coverage in China. In the article, Trump is quoted as praising the Chinese people and Chinese values.

Ottey and Laurie made their remarks at this month’s CCLP Communication Leadership Washington DC lunch forum, which was presented in partnership with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and the Public Diplomacy Council.

The next USC/PDC lunch forum will be held on Monday, December 5, featuring USC Annenberg Vice Dean and Professor, Phillip Seib, author of The Future of #Diplomacy and “Public Diplomacy in the Trump Era.” Details and RSVP are available here.