Trump Sees China’s Rich as Big Business Opportunity Despite Inflammatory Rhetoric

Donald Trump has been bashing China on the campaign trail for "stealing" American jobs, but the Trump brand is placing a big emphasis on the Chinese travel market. (Shutterstock)

Donald Trump has been bashing China on the campaign trail for “stealing” American jobs, but the Trump brand is placing a big emphasis on the Chinese travel market. (Shutterstock)

While China-bashing may be a favorite pastime of Donald Trump during his blustering speeches on the U.S. presidential campaign trail, this hasn’t stopped his luxury hotel brand from making big efforts to cash in on the global Chinese tourism boom.

With a representative office in Shanghai, the Trump Hotel Collection has been pursuing its Asia expansion plan with sights trained clearly on Chinese travelers. Its first two Asia resorts are being developed in Indonesia (including Chinese tourist favorite Bali), and the brand is looking at Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen for new property locations, its CEO Eric Danziger told China Daily last October.

With their emphasis on gold and bling, Trump’s hotels in the United States have also proven to be a tuhao dream, and the Trump organization has made extensive efforts to roll out the red carpet for Chinese visitors. In addition to a Chinese-language website and efforts to target Chinese media, the hotels have many amenities specifically for Chinese tourists. The Trump SoHo New York has “multilingual staff to assist travelers, a dedicated arrival procedure for Chinese guests that keeps cultural customs top-of-mind, and several traditional Asian dishes on the hotel’s in-room dining menu,” said Danziger. The hotel has also held Chinese New Year celebrations with special red envelope promotions for guests.

This warm hospitality toward Chinese guests marks a significant contrast with what Trump has been saying about China while running for president. He’s stated that the “money and jobs” that have been “taken” by China from the United States mark “the greatest single theft in the history of the United States,” and has called China a currency manipulator while threatening to impose a 45 percent tax on imports from China. He’s also used broken English to mock Chinese accents while talking about what it’s like “negotiating with China” in a campaign rally speech.

His views have gotten him negative publicity in China, as the state-run People’s Daily has called him “deranged” and Global Times recently ran an op-ed calling him “arrogant and hawkish,” using his rise is an example of the shortcomings of the U.S. democratic system. Meanwhile, Chinese business magazine Caijing has called him a “celebrity fuerdai (second-generation rich) who would “not make a good president.”

Trump’s statements on China haven’t been the only ones that have been at odds with his brand and business interests. Although he has called for a ban on new Muslims entering the United States, said that the government should keep a registry of all Muslims, and even praised the idea of executing Muslims with pigs’ blood, Trump’s Indonesia locations will be in a country that is 87 percent Muslim, while the brand is also expanding into Muslim-majority Azerbaijan. His statements have caused many tourism operators to say that they’ll be boycotting the Trump brand, while one survey of affluent American travelers found that 45 percent will be boycotting his properties. 

It’s not just the Trump hotels that have big business ties to China. A Trump-branded tower being built in New Jersey released a Chinese-language marketing video seeking funding from wealthy Chinese investors interested in the EB-5 visa program (nicknamed the “millionaire visa”), which grants visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in the United States. In addition, items from Trump’s clothing brand are made in China, as are those from his daughter Ivanka’s fashion line (which just had a recall issue with flammable made-in-China scarves).

As a result, his China-bashing rhetoric—like with many of his other positions—has come across a bit garbled at times. When he announced his presidential run, he exclaimed, “I love China,” and highlighted the ways he’s benefited from New York’s influx of Chinese billionaires buying real estate, stating, “I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike ‘em?”

His love-hate inconsistency when it comes to China has been returned by China’s public, as Donald Trump “fan groups” have been on the rise on Chinese social media, with Chinese followers expressing admiration toward his “charisma” and approval toward his draconian positions on Muslims. Others support his presidency for a completely opposite reason—they believe he would be a failure as a president, and as a result “make China great again.”

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