I Wore A Donald Trump Mask In China

Among the numerous, nearly countless preposterous comments Donald Trump has made in his lifetime, there's one topic he always seems to come back to: China. The Republican presidential hopeful (I'm really stretching that word there) has commented on China so often that it's clear that the real estate tycoon is threatened by — not to mention, obsessed with — the Asian country. But what exactly does China think of Donald Trump? That's what I set out to find out when I went on a two-week trip to China this summer. I asked average Chinese citizens what they thought of the Republican, and their overall answer was loud and clear: Donald who?

Before we turn the mic over to the Chinese, let's revisit some of Trump's most noteworthy comments on the country, shall we? There was the time he accused China of stealing American jobs, only to be called out for using Chinese labor to make his apparel and weird teddy bears. He also boasted during his presidential campaign announcement that he "beats China all the time:"

When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.

But then he stated with conviction that the Chinese respect him because one Chinese business renewed a lease in one of his buildings. And then there was that... creative analogy he made comparing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to China.

People say, "Oh, you don’t like China." No, I love them. But their leaders are much smarter than our leaders, and we can’t sustain ourself with that. There’s too much — it’s like — it’s like, take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. That’s the difference between China’s leaders and our leaders.
Matthew Busch/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Sure. Whatever you say, Donald. The point is that you say a lot on the subject of China. It's time now to see what the people of China have to say about you. I had the opportunity to find out when I went on a two-week trip to Beijing, Wuhan, and Shanghai, where I not only asked random people on the street and acquaintances what they thought about the outspoken presidential hopeful, but also posed as The Donald himself in various locations around the country. The final consensus? Sorry, Trump, but your fixation is one-sided.

(Ed. note: The following exchanges are translated by the writer, with the help of family members.)

Cashier At McDonald's In Beijing's Shuangjing Neighborhood

When I brandished a photo of Trump's face in front of the cashier and asked if he knew who he was, the young man, clearly startled, said, "No," and impatiently waited for me to order. By the way, the chicken at Chinese McDonald's is way tastier than what you get in the States!

Woman Waiting For The Bus

Me: "Hi, how are you? Can I ask you a quick question? Do you know who this man is?" [Shows her my photo of Trump]

Woman: "No." [Walks five paces away from me]

Random Family Eating At A Yunnan Restaurant

While the majority of the family avoided eye contact with me, their young daughter was curious about the photo I was holding. Her thoughts on Trump? "He looks like a monster." Very astute, young lady! An insightful, spot-on, and concise observation indeed. If I had any gold stars, I would have given her one.

My Mom's Colleague

I asked my mom to take the photo to her office and show it to her employees, hoping that the staff of a U.S.-based company might know who Trump is. One woman did recognize him, only it wasn't the right him. "Hugh Hefner?" she guessed. Ha, I wish! A Hugh Hefner campaign? Now that I could get behind.

In the interest of saving time, here's a consolidation of all the people who had no clue who Donald Trump was:

  • Woman selling produce at the corner market in Shanghai
  • Barista at Starbucks
  • A bartender in Beijing's Hutong district
  • Man in business suit who looked like he might know a thing or two about international business
  • Three college students on Wuhan University's campus
  • The guy who helped me print out my Trump mask
  • The restaurant manager at the Shanghai Four Seasons
  • A waitress at the Shanghai Four Seasons
  • At least four taxi drivers

What's surprising about the Chinese people's obliviousness to Trump is that he's not overlooked in the country's state media. On my flight from Wuhan to Shanghai, I spotted the infamous hair peaking from a passenger's newspaper from afar and quickly procured my own copy of the paper. Sure enough, it was an article about Trump, along with a caricature of him and a step-by-step guide on how to achieve his hairstyle (it was satire, of course; no self-respecting Chinese person would actually want hair like that).

Naturally, I tried to ask the man with the paper his thoughts on Trump, seeing as he was literally reading about him at the moment, but he didn't want to be bothered.

However, my experiment wasn't completely fruitless. I did happen to come across two people in China who had opinions on Trump beyond his monstrous appearance. Fine, one of them was my mom, who is an American citizen and has lived in the United States on and off since 1989, but for the purpose of this article, she was just another person in China I interviewed, one of the few I didn't scare away with my spontaneous questioning.

Here's what she had to say:

He's not a professional politician, but he has money, so he's going to make some noise in society and get attention. And who knows, maybe he's a dark horse and can get somewhere. But I don't think people take him seriously. And just because he has money doesn't mean he'll use his power to help people or the country.

Spoken like a true American, Mom. Her thoughts are representative of what many in the United States think of Trump, and if I had found more people who knew him in China, they probably would have made similar statements.

And then there was the other person who knew Trump, who, surprisingly, was a taxi driver in Beijing. Even though several other taxi drivers had no idea who he was, this one in particular had an interest in international news programs. In fact, not only did he know who Trump was, but he could drop some serious knowledge on Hillary and Jeb, too, the latter of whom the Chinese affectionately call "Little Bush." So what was this well-informed taxi driver's message?

Donald Trump would make a terrible U.S. president ... but then again, so would all of the candidates.

Images: Alicia Lu (11)