Every four years, on the first Tuesday of November, the American citizens go to the voting booths to cast votes for the President of the United States.
This past year I had to submit an absentee ballot because I was studying in Shanghai for three and a half months.
My first Presidential election I ever voted in felt bizarre because I was in another country that paid little to no attention to the election.
One of the perks of studying abroad in Shanghai this past fall was living with Chinese students.
I became friends with a few different Chinese college students who were rooming with other American students in the program.
After the election, we had conversations about Donald Trump and the future of U.S.-China relations.
One student said he liked Trump because he thought he would be great for China.
After he learned about Trump’s punitive trade policy proposals, he did not change his opinion.
In confidentiality, he told me he thought Trump and China were similar because they both have negative views of Muslims as a result of terrorism.
His Islamophobic ideology aligned with all the rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Additionally, I believe he thought Trump was good for China because of his perceived Isolationalist policies that would be beneficial for China expanding its influence in the region.
Firstly, this one student is not representative of what most Chinese citizens think.
I figure most Chinese citizens learn about the United States from the media.
Walking around Shanghai, including foreign communities, one would seldom see anything about the U.S. election or campaign.
On the subway they have small television screens that play anything from basketball to news to cooking shows.
Once or twice I saw a brief recap of one of the debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The clip would start off with a comment Hillary made (addressing e-mail scandal) then a sound-bite from Donald Trump.
The headline would read “American Presidential Debate.”
Finally, the news video would conclude with tweets from Donald Trump and celebrity reactions from the debate.
The Chinese state media tried to display the two candidates as equals and in doing so were effective at conveying little to no policy difference.
The Chinese were largely reflecting thoughts from the state media and believed that Clinton was experienced in politics and Trump was a businessman.
For instance, my roommate did not know any of the candidates’ policies, just the background of both the candidates.
When I arrived back home many people at Union asked me, “How was experiencing the election in China? What did they think?” To answer simply: not much.