Monday June 1, 2020


April 17, 2015


Hillary Clinton has finally announced her long-anticipated campaign for the U.S. presidency. Not all parties are equally excited by this, however. Clinton has a largely unpopular public image in China due to her hawkish stance on China, criticism of China’s human rights, and efforts to promote the rebalance to Asia. There is also the  traditional Chinese dislike of a career-minded “iron lady” at play. Accordingly, Hillary Clinton’s announcement last Sunday has generated a strong reaction among the Chinese public.

Hillary Clinton’s new  campaign video emphasized the strength of American families, echoing her famous speech in Beijing ten years ago focusing on family issues. In 2005, while part of the United States delegation to the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women, she criticized China’s population control policies, saying, “it is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.”. Clinton’s speech worried many China observers in a time of precarious U.S.-China relations when Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui had visited the United States and U.S. human rights activist Harry Wu was detained in China.

As the U.S. Secretary of State who launched the U.S. pivot to Asia, Hillary Clinton also declared the South China Sea a U.S. national interest, which China’s then-Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi decried as an attack to China. As for the Senkaku/Diaoyu territory dispute, the United States did not pick a side, but on behalf of the Obama administration Hillary Clinton acknowledged Japan’s administration and opposed “any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese Administration” of the islands. In response, China issued an unusually resolute criticism of Clinton’s “disregard [of] the facts and confus[ing] right and wrong.” In addition to the Foreign Ministry statement, the Chinese military issued stern warnings about the need for the army to be ready for war. It is also noted that as Secretary of State, rather than expressing her personal opinion, Clinton has done her job representing the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.

Since stepping down as secretary of state, Clinton has sharpened her criticism of China, irritating Chinese officials who see it as interference in China’s internal affairs. In her 2014 memoir Hard Choices, she writes about China’s censorship, her disagreements with Beijing over the treatment of Tibetans, and dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng’s escape to the U.S. Embassy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book is banned in China. Recently on Twitter, Clinton called for the released of five feminist activists behind held in China, saying “the detention of women’s activists in China must end. This is inexcusable.” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted, “We hope that public figures in other countries can respect China’s judicial sovereignty and independence.”

In Foreign Policy, Isaac Stone Fish highlighted comments by state-run Chinese Central Television (CCTV) about Hillary Clinton’s announcement where she was described as an “old witch” who, if elected, would “make Sino-U.S. relations even worse.” Another predicted that if Clinton became president of the United States, “World War III would not be far away.” China Daily, China’s state run newspaper, released an article right after Clinton’s presidential election announcement saying there would be no room for election China-bashing.

Even though Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ 2016 presidential front-runner, has been a long-time critic of China’s human rights record and China’s foreign policy in Asia and vis-a-vis the United States, it is a time-honored U.S. political tradition that China bashing candidates change their stance as soon as they are elected. In 1980, Ronald Reagan repeatedly criticized President Jimmy Carter for establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing, suggesting he would reestablish ties with Taiwan and sell Taiwan advanced fighter jets. As president, Reagan declared U.S.-China relations a “strategic imperative” to balance Soviet influence and ignore his commitment to sell fighter planes. In 1992, Bill Clinton inveighed against the “butchers of Beijing” after Tiananmen Square, but as president normalized relations with China and helped pave the way for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. In 2000, George W. Bush attacked Clinton for treating China as a “strategic partner” rather than a “strategic competitor,” but once elected, engaged Beijing after the 9/11 attacks to win China’s support for the Global War on Terror.

It is also pure speculation to predict a shift in U.S.-China relations under Hillary Clinton administration since she has yet to win the election, despite her front-runner status.

For more information on this topic, consult the following sources:

China Daily“‘No room’ for election China-bashing: US politicians”

Quartz“What president Hillary Clinton could mean for China”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei’s Regular Press Conference on April 13, 2015”

POLITICOChina fires back at Hillary Clinton tweet”

Reuters “China peeved as Hillary Clinton denounces women’s detention”

Foreign Policy“The Chinese Internet Hates Hillary Clinton Even More than Republicans Do”

Foreign Policy“China makes Clinton’s speech look tougher than it was”

Foreign Policy“China Thinks Hillary Is Bossy”

Public Radio International“Hillary Clinton may be the most hated woman in China”

Shanghaiist “Chinese netizens react to Hillary Clinton’s bid for US presidency, it’s not pretty”




Compiled and edited by Stella Ran Zheng