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Marco Werman: Hillary Clinton is not likely to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping when he comes to the US. Clinton is no longer Secretary of State of course, but she is hoping to occupy the White House after President Obama. So what do the Chinese make of her just announced candidacy? Isaac Stone Fish is going to help us with that one. He’s Asia editor at Foreign Policy Magazine. Isaac, how do the Chinese and their leaders see Hillary Clinton?
Isaac Stone Fish: There’s a surprising amount of anger in the Chinese reaction for Hillary Clinton and her announcement to run for president, both from grassroots Chinese, and what we can glean is that Chinese leaders don’t appear to be very happy with it either.
Werman: What kind of things are they saying about Mrs. Clinton?
Stone Fish: One popular comment called her an “old witch.” Another said that if she were elected president, World War III would not be very far away. Then the Global Times, which is a popular and very nationalistic Chinese newspaper, did a poll on her and concluded that after Hillary stepped down from the State Department, that she had become the most hated US political figure in China. But whether or not that’s actually true is impossible to say.
Werman: Those are some pretty harsh things. Why are they saying those things? Just because Mrs. Clinton through her hat in the ring?
Stone Fish: I think there’s probably three reasons that we’re seeing such a strong negative response against Hillary Clinton on the Chinese internet. One is that there’s a lot of anger towards her for her role as Secretary of State, where many people feel that she was unfairly tough against China. Another reason is just because that she’s a woman and a lot of it is just plain old fashioned sexism to the idea that a woman could be ruling a country as powerful as America. The third reason is that I think a lot of people feel that Clinton tells China what to do and talks down to China, and people find that very patronizing.
Werman: If we go back to the sexism angle on why they’re saying these things, how does Chinese opinion deal with other women politicians from around the world, like Angela Merkel? Do they respect her or not?
Stone Fish: I think, and again painting with a very broad brush here because there’s a lot of different opinions in China, but one dominant opinion sees these women as iron ladies, so people who are strong because of manly qualities. Unfortunately too much in China, women are viewed as important either for their sexuality or for their manliness, and women like Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton are viewed as being powerful because of their manliness as opposed to other qualities in a lot of cases.
Werman: And I’m wondering, really at the end of the day, who cares really what China thinks of a presidential candidate in the US, but is it possible that maybe the haters in China could translate as more respect for Clinton here among swing voters?
Stone Fish: I think so. I think the worst the Chinese feel about Hillary, the better the Americans will feel.
Werman: Wow, interesting. Isaac Stone Fish, Asia editor at Foreign Policy Magazine. Thank you.