Chinese Trump Supporters Thank WeChat

(Photo by Sinchen.Lin, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Sinchen.Lin, Creative Commons license)

When President-elect Donald Trump makes a thank you list for his victory he should make sure WeChat is on it, said his Chinese supporters on November 9. They said the social media platform that’s popular among Chinese played a significant role in mobilizing Trump’s Chinese supporters. It was more powerful than any other promotion tools.

Before Election Day, Trump had been complaining that the media treated him unfairly, and the polls showed Trump’s chance of winning was very low. If you looked at WeChat, though, you’d have reached a different conclusion. Almost all chat groups formed on the platform were leaning toward Trump. Several organizers and active members of these chat groups that focus on politics and social issues said that WeChat is a venue where individual voices can be heard. And most participants of these groups are middle-aged immigrants who were educated in both China and the U.S. So their opinions are different from the voters who only follow the mainstream media.

Wenhong Xie, who formed a few dozen chat groups on WeChat including the “Civil Rights” group that was set up in 2013, said among WeChat users are many Chinese who are not happy with the current policies and social undertones in the U.S. So it was not a surprise that these people united together to oppose the incumbent Democratic Party and support the Republican presidential nominee.

Xie said his “Civil Rights” chat group saw a spike in the number of participants after the Democrats proposed SCA5 in California, a bill that would disadvantage Asian applicants to public universities in the state. That was because many middle-aged Chinese immigrants were outraged by the possible reduction in their children’s chances of being admitted into good universities.

“Most of these people went to college in China, got higher degrees in the U.S. and had been working in this country for years. They like to communicate in Chinese on WeChat,” Xie said. These people take WeChat as a platform to express their concerns and anger. “That’s why these chat groups were mainly against the Democratic Party and for Trump.”

Jinliang Chen, a medical consultant in New York, is one of the active participants in the WeChat groups. He said Hillary Clinton had been in politics for decades. Most of the media were on her side. So the older generation of Chinese immigrants who relied on traditional media for information supported her. And the second generation Chinese who were born in the U.S. were brainwashed by the Democratic Party in the past eight years. That’s why the polls pointed to Hillary as the winner.

“These two kinds of people don’t often use WeChat because most older immigrants are not good at using smartphones and most American born Chinese don’t speak Chinese,” said Chen. “That explains the different pictures on WeChat and in the polls.”

“Unlike traditional media, participants can respond and discuss in real time on WeChat. That’s why the chat groups on WeChat are so popular,” Chen added. And the discussions also attract more users for WeChat and create a circle of growth.

Xie estimated that there are at least a few thousand WeChat groups in the U.S. with political and social issues themes. These groups first flexed their power mobilizing over the Peter Liang case, followed by organizing protests against Fox News for a stereotype-ridden program in Chinatown and against African American rapper Y.G. for a song that depicted a scene of robbing an Asian family. During the presidential election, related news circulated on WeChat in a much more timely manner than traditional media.

Qingxia Zhang, a die hard supporter of the Republican Party living in California, sent out numerous pro-Trump messages on WeChat during the election. She said WeChat offers people like her an opportunity. “I didn’t like Hillary when she was the Secretary of the State. But that was a pre-WeChat era and I had few platforms to show my opinions and to influence other people.”

Zhang pointed out that WeChat also helped to quickly circulate information about Hillary’s scandals. She said unlike the traditional media, WeChat is not controlled by the Democratic Party. And it allows her and other like-minded Chinese to get together and push forward their political views.

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