Sometimes there’s an unusual religious group out there that reporters don’t have the contacts or the linguistic abilities to crack. One such group are the 100,000 Chinese Christians in Vancouver, B.C. They’re too large to ignore but if you don’t know Chinese, it’s tough to get an entrée.
Actually, Vancouver has 400,000 Chinese total, so the 100,000 estimate may be a bit low. And so Douglas Todd, the religion blogger for the Vancouver Sun, has found a way around this problem by engaging a bilingual scholar who can interpret this people group.
What do you know? Todd discovered -- taking American politics all the way outside our borders -- that these folks are very pro-Trump. The larger question: Why does this matter and how it this linked to larger religion issues?
Here’s what he wrote last week:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is getting support from an unusual source -- Chinese evangelicals in Canada.
Social media in Canada is ablaze with Chinese Christians coming out in support of the bombastic would-be strongman. Trump’s Chinese supporters see him as a beacon of authoritarian stability in a world that could be headed towards apocalypse. The Chinese Christians also think Trump could ensure their ongoing prosperity.
“Trump … is (seen as) a dose of strong law-and-order medicine on the world stage,” says Assistant Prof Justin Tse, who studied Metro Vancouver’s more than 400,000 ethnic Chinese while obtaining his PhD in geography at the University of B.C.
Some Chinese evangelicals in Canada are supporting Trump to “ensure the stability of global markets through authoritarian law-and-order regimes,” says Tse, a visiting assistant professor in the Asian American Studies Program of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, Chicago.
At my request, Tse wrote up a short analysis of Trump’s Chinese-evangelical support, in which he refers to the cohort as “Trumplicans.”
What follows is Tse’s explanation of why Trump plays well in certain locales overseas.
Apparently, the key word in social-media posts is "stability."
A friend of mine who is a second-generation Chinese Baptist minister shared with me a video from someone to whom he’d ministered. The person has been posting Trump propaganda incessantly on his Facebook for the last four months or so.
In this video, this acquaintance -- a Chinese evangelical woman -- expounds her pro-Trump political philosophy in Cantonese, expanding on the ideology that is embedded in her social media comments.
For her, Trump must be elected because he is chummy with (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and (Communist Chinese President) Xi Jinping, world leaders that in her mind are ensuring the stability of global markets through authoritarian law-and-order regimes.
One wonders here if this is simply because of the way Chinese Christians tend to think or whether their thinking is at all reinforced by a certain view of Scripture.
These leaders must not be questioned, as that would lead to an apocalyptic war among these militaristic entities. Instead, a stable world order with strong states would facilitate global market flows, perhaps even leading to the ability to proclaim the Christian Gospel in a much more efficient, if not propagandistic, way.
The end of the world may be coming, but let’s get the word out about it first in a well-managed market where ideas and capital can freely circulate.
There are certain things you can do with blogs that you can’t pull off in a regular article and that is to give someone plenty of space for their views.
Justin Tse, the scholar who wrote the above, has made it his life’s work to encapsulate the socially conservative Chinese Christians of Canada. Elsewhere, Todd explains in a lengthy post why this group is so socially powerful and why they’re also an influential voting bloc. Tse’s essay ends thus:
In the same way, Chinese evangelical Trumplicanism in Metro Vancouver may have little to do with either ‘Chinese people’ or ‘evangelical theology,’ and everything to do with an ideology of law-and-order stability on the world stage in order to protect whatever material prosperity they’ve amassed.
What this implies is that the Trump phenomenon is much more than an American one. And perhaps disillusioned Americans thinking that they can simply move to Canada if Trump wins ought to feel more disillusioned still after reading this.
My one question is this: Is the point here that these Chinese are so spiritually bankrupt that all they care about is their money?
The only problem with relying on one person’s read of the situation is that no other viewpoints are brought in. The folks at CNBC have whole other take as to how Trump plays in China and India. CNN found that the Donald actually has a growing Chinese fan base.
Reporting on immigrant communities can be rough going, but The Raleigh News & Observer found out that local Chinese-Americans recently rented a plane to fly a banner praising Trump. The Atlantic even found one Trump supporter in Beijing who was willing to comment on the most recent presidential debate. The Los Angeles Times found Chinese Trump supporters in California. There's also Chinese/Trump stories on Quora and Fortune.com.
I think intermediaries are good -- to a point -- when it comes to reporting on immigrant communities. Before concluding that Vancouver's Chinese Christians are more materialistic than their American counterparts, I would have liked to heard one other point of view on whether they are or not. Once again, we are talking about journalism basics.