Chin is also an unapologetic cheerleader for Trump, whom he calls a “hero,” and he is far from alone. This city lies at the forefront of the global fight for democracy, a place where protesters have for more than a year stood against Beijing’s attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, free press, and liberal institutions. Yet support for the president—whose own assault on democratic norms, gushing over the Tiananmen Square massacre, on-again, off-again praise of Chinese President Xi Jinping, initial lukewarm support of Hong Kong’s protest movement, and self-admitted slow-rolling of sanctions over Xinjiang’s mass-detention camps in favor of a trade deal—remains stronger in some quarters than for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
These feelings are not unique to Hong Kong. Though reviled in much of Europe for his rhetoric about migrants, his questioning of NATO, and his friendliness toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has earned credit in parts of Asia for his hawkishness toward Beijing, which supporters argue has not just shifted Washington’s own position, but has also emboldened other countries around the world.
In Vietnam, where anti-Chinese sentiment is rife, a vocal pro-Trump faction cheered his first, chaotic debate performance on social media. Republicans’ stauch anti-Communist postions have long found an accepting audience among Vietnamese Americans. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Trump has seen support in the Philippines—a country that has a Trump-like leader (albeit one who has openly courted China)—as have members of that country’s diaspora in America. Indeed, Vietnam and the Philippines, both countries that have seen a more hostile position from Beijing in the South China Sea, are two of a small number of countries whose people were positive on Trump and his policies, according to polling conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2017.