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Watching American Democracy in China

Liberals and Conservatives After Trump

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 5, 2012. Feng Li / Reuters

In this Year of the Monkey, China has been riveted by the U.S. presidential election, and more specifically by Republican contender Donald Trump. Those who usually pontificate on the nature of democracy and about what kind of U.S. president would be better for China are at a loss to explain the Trump phenomenon to the Chinese public.

Two parallel but irreconcilable narratives about U.S. politics have guided Chinese understanding of the United States for decades. The conservatives tell the public that American democracy is a sham in which money and special interests manipulate public opinions and rig the system for their own benefit—the House of Cards version of democracy. The liberals promote it as a system in which the people determine their own fate by electing their leaders, in contrast to one-party rule at home, and as something China must aspire to—the Goddess of Democracy

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