Chinese College Student Perspectives on President Trump and Why They Matter

By Tyler Jiang, Blogger for East Asian Affairs

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has acted quickly to implement his policies. From working to abolish the Affordable Care Act to signing an immigration ban, there is no doubt that President Trump is getting right down to business. On the campaign trail, a focal point of the Trump platform was focus on negotiating a “better deal” from China. In order to achieve this goal, President Trump stated that he was willing to levy a 45 percent tariff on Chinese products to protect American manufacturing. [1] His phone call with the President of Taiwan, which broke the “One China” policy that has dictated U.S.-Chinese foreign relations for decades, further exacerbated relations.

So how do Chinese college students in China view President Trump? The answer is not in Trump’s favor. Because of his campaign rhetoric and aggressive stance on the South China Sea, - most notably Steve Bannon’s prediction of a war in the region – the Chinese people have long been wary of Trump’s foreign policy ideas. [2] Talking with Chinese students at Tsinghua University and Peking University, I found that they believe Trump’s behavior and attitude towards their country is unhealthy for developing a constructive relationship between the two nations.

But it isn’t just the President’s attitude toward China that has led many Chinese to believe that he is, among other words, “insane” (疯了, feng le). It is President Trump’s domestic policies and administration gaffs that have caught the attention of the Chinese students. Many believe his intention to abolish Obamacare to be foolhardy, if not deadly to the millions of Americans who require coverage. In China, the health insurance system has its flaws, such as lower quality care in rural areas, but students prefer having insurance over not. The Chinese government is also actively working to reform the system to bring down healthcare costs. [3]

The immigration ban also raised eyebrows, with students questioning “why Americans prefer isolationism in a time of globalization” and “why keep pushing the ban if both protestors and the courts disagree?” President Trump’s approval ratings may be low in the United States, but they are even lower in China. [4]

But why should we care about what the Chinese have to say about President Trump? Though China’s overall negative view on Trump cannot be used to describe all nations, it does show a trend in how he is viewed in East Asia. Even though he reiterated his commitment to the “One China” policy in a February 9 phone call to President Xi Jinping, the Chinese people are not convinced that this begins a new chapter in U.S.-China relations. Instead, Trump’s seemingly 180-degree turn from his previous policies, including what appeared to be an attempt to reset U.S.-Chinese relations –  has made the Chinese public skeptical. [5] If the Trump administration wishes to have a successful foreign policy for the next four years, members must realize that their actions have not only global consequences, but are also scrutinized by all nations. A consistent and less impulsive foreign policy is a prerequisite to a productive and friendly relationship between the United States and China. America is a “beacon on a hill,” but if the President continues down his current course, the light will soon dim and nations will look elsewhere for guidance and friendship. 

Tyler Jiang is a junior at Rowan University studying International Studies and History, and he is studying abroad at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China for the Spring and Summer of 2017.


[1] Patrick Gillespie, “3 ways Trump can slap tarrifs on China and Mexico,” CNN Money, (November 14, 2017).

[2] Simon Denyer, “Is Trump ready for a war in the South China Sea, or is his team just not being clear?” Washington Post, (Jan 24, 2017). And Benjamin Haas, “Steve Bannon: ‘We’re going to War in the South China Sea… no doubt’,” The Guardian, (Feb, 1, 2017),

[3] Christine Kahler, “China’s Healthcare Reform: How Far Has it Come?” China Business Review, (January 1, 2011).

[4] Rebecca Savransky, “Trump’s job approval ratings hit a new low,” The Hill, (Feb 12, 2017).

[5] Mark Lander and Michael Forsythe, “Trump Tells Xi Jinping U.S. Will Honor ‘One China’ Policy,” New York Times, (Feb 9, 2017).