See­ing the funny side of high drama

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By RAYMOND ZHOU in Bei­jing ray­mondzhou@ chi­

While not many in China have seen Don­ald Trump’s re­al­ity TV shows, the US pres­i­dent-elect has al­ways been viewed more or less as an en­ter­tain­ment fig­ure in the Mid­dle King­dom.

It may not be an over­state­ment to say a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion — among those who care, that is — treat Amer­i­can election pol­i­tics as a vari­ant of en­ter­tain­ment.

Most por­tray­als of Don­ald Trump on China’s so­cial me­dia, which tend to be much more opin­ion­ated than tra­di­tional me­dia, were harshly neg­a­tive. This could be an echo ef­fect from Amer­ica’s main­stream press.

The so-called“elit­ists” have a lot of shared val­ues while pop­ulism dif­fers from place to place as each coun­try deals with a dif­fer­ent set of is­sues. Com­men­ta­tor Lian Yue’s con­trar­ian pre­dic­tion of Trump’s win a few days ago was mostly based on his ob­ser­va­tion that the US press does not like the real es­tate ty­coon.

As the prospect of a Trump vic­tory be­came more likely, Chi­nese so­cial me­dia went through a not-so-sub­tle change as more di­verse voices were posted. Lib­er­als who swore Trump would never win were turned into laugh­ing stocks. In­ter­net jokes were fly­ing across cy­berspace, tar­get­ing for­mer ob­jects of ven­er­a­tion.

“If we had Amer­i­can-style election,” goes one, “we’d have elected Kris Wu, Li Yifeng and TF Boys,” teenage heart­throbs with a ju­ve­nile yet de­voted fan base who would go out of their way to sup­port their idols.

Even Trump’s name has evolved into a gag. Among an on­line list of corol­lary tri­umphs is the Chi­nese prov­ince of Sichuan be­cause a grass­roots trans­la­tion of his name hap­pens to be a homonym for Sichuan ac­cented Man­darin. Of­fi­cial trans­la­tion re­moves any con­no­ta­tion.

Many Chi­nese get their knowl­edge about Amer­i­can pol­i­tics from Hol­ly­wood en­ter­tain­ment prod­ucts, yet they are likely to be drawn to those as­pects with lo­cal par­al­lels. House of Cards was a big hit in China partly be­cause the story is anal­o­gous to the palace in­trigue pop­u­lar in Chi­nese drama sen­sa­tions like Zhen­huan or Em­presses in the Palace. Both plumb the depths of hu­man­ity as con­vulsed by power in a soap op­er­atic man­ner. As a mat­ter of fact, when the Kevin Spacey star ve­hi­cle first ar­rived in Chi­nese cy­berspace, it was dubbed “the White House ver­sion of Zhen­huan”.

If we had Amer­i­can-style election, we’d have elected Kris Wu, Li Yifeng and TF Boys.”

How­ever, the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial election has knocked Hol­ly­wood to the way­side. The cam­paigns were so full of dra­matic flour­ishes that even fic­tional char­ac­ters pale next to them.

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