With the French elections 2017 coming up, China is watching closely. The Middle Kingdom is one of the only countries who successfully predicted Trump to win in the US. Will the second round results on May 7th, 2017 contradict Chinese people’s opinions?
During the race for the White House in 2016, Chinese people saw their favorite candidate, Donald Trump, come out victorious. Will the same be true for their favorite candidate in France? China, a diplomatic and strong economic partner with France, is keeping a watchful eye on these heated elections, with the first round occurring on April 23rd.
Which candidates are the hottest topics on Chinese social networks?
On Baidu (百度)
Baidu Index evolution graph for Le Pen, Fillon and Macron (between January 1st and March 21st, 2017)
This Baidu Index (百度指数, an index that reflects the total number of searches on China’s leading search engine Baidu based on keywords) evolution graph shows the evolution of the search volume concerning the French elections 2017 candidates between the January 1st, 2017 and March 21st. According to this Baidu Index analysis, Marine Le Pen (in blue) is clearly the hottest topic on the Chinese web. Fillon (in orange) and Macron (in green) are far behind Marine Le Pen in terms of number of searches. Fillon is the second most searched candidate on Baidu, followed by Macron. Hamon doesn’t appear in Baidu Index, due to the low volumes of searches about him.
Search Behaviors for Le Pen and Fillon (between March, 14th, and March, 21st, 2017)
Concerning the search behavior (相关词分析 function on Baidu Index showing the words related to a specific searched keyword, with the keywords strongly related appearing in the middle in the first circle), a large part of words associated to Marine Le Pen are correlated to her party and to the French elections 2017. Some words such as “Trump” and “dangerous” also appear in the extremity of the circles (less strongly correlated words).
Main associated keywords for Marine Le Pen (in the first circle, strongly related): “French elections” and “France”
Main associated keywords for Francois Fillon (in the first circle, strongly related): “Penelope-Gate’s scandal”
The reason why the analysis concerns Marine Le Pen and François Fillon, but not Emmanuel Macron is because the keywords searches for Emmanuel Macron were not related to his name, and the others candidates are not indexed on Baidu.
On Weibo (微博)
From January the 1st to March the 21st 2017, 828 topics were created about Marine Le Pen on Weibo. Marine Le Pen is the hottest topic on this social network. A number of topics concerning Fillon is about two times less than those concerning Marine Le Pen: 436 articles, whose 16% were related to the “Penelope-Gate” scandal. Only 248 topics concerning Macron have been found on Weibo.
Marine Le Pen:
Marine Le Pen caught great attention from the public and triggered heated discussions on Weibo mainly because of her controversial political positions. The peak recorded at the beginning of February (Feb 1st to Feb 10th) can be explained by the launch of her presidential campaign in France, including her promises such as “French freedom” from the European Union (“Frexit”) and “intelligent protectionism” to impose trade barriers and stop “uncontrolled immigration”. The highest peak recorded by the end of February, corresponds to two main Weibo’s topics posted dealing with her idea to readopt the French old currency, the Franc (March, 2nd, 2017) and one about her refusing to wear a headscarf when meeting with Cheikh Abdellatif Deriane, Lebanon’s Grand Mufti (February 23rd, 2017,). On social media, a large part of Chinese seems to disapprove her policies, but she still has some supporters who appreciate her strong personality.
The “Penelope-Gate” scandal had a strong impact on the research volume recorded on Baidu. The peak (from Feb.2nd to Feb.8th) can be explained by a Weibo’s topic dealing with the results of a French opinion survey showing Fillon’s reliability decreasing after the Penelope-Gate scandal. A Weibo’s topic about his refusal to admit his crime posted on the March, 2nd, 2017 and another one reporting that Fillon is officially charged by the French justice can explain respectively the last two peaks recorded.
The slight increase of Macron’s Baidu Index at the beginning of February is due to a Weibo topic concerning his willingness to welcome “all American researchers, entrepreneurs, engineers” who want to flee their “climate skeptic” president, Donald Trump.
Jean Luc Mélenchon:
He is almost unknown on Weibo. One netizen used “Jean Luc Mélenchon” as an account name to show his support of the Socialist party is the only relevant fact on Weibo concerning the leader of the far left wing party.
French elections 2017: The Chinese favorites
François Fillon 菲永 – “A doer buried by scandals ” “ 丑闻缠身的实干家”
Social Media Sentiment Analysis: Positive
Pro-China? François Fillon, the leader of the right wing party “Les Républicains” (LR), wants to improve the relationship with China, which, according to him, is a key factor in order to get France out of its current social crisis and economic issues.
What about the Chinese opinion? Realistic, trustworthy, charismatic and experienced; he is the best candidate according to the Chinese point of view. Thanks to his projects with China and his support for China in the Tibetan situation, Fillon is the favorite among Chinese public opinion. If he reaches the second round, he might win against Marine Le Pen according to Chinese people. The “Penelope-Gate” scandal seems to have caused repercussions, but the Chinese opinion remains the same.
This comment says: “Le Pen doesn’t have any economic plan, while Fillon is experienced and more suitable for the presidency.”
However, some comments are more mixed. Fillon’s political commitment might not be enough innovative to improve the French economy.
This comment says: “Fillon embodies the traditional party who cannot save France. This is due to French policy”
Marine Le Pen 勒庞 – “The passionate troublemaker” “谋变革的问题制造者”
Social Media Sentiment Analysis: Negative
Pro-China? Marine Le Pen’s political program doesn’t deal with China. Nevertheless, Chinese people living in France worry about her immigration policy, which is included in “Marine 2017”, the movement of her far right wing party, Front National (FN).
What about the Chinese opinion?
Even if Chinese people regard her as “the most dangerous woman in France”, she is seen as someone who could make things move forward and bring new and concrete solutions to France especially with Islam’s issues.
This comment says: “She is brave to be against Islam. Le Pen is aggressive, but she could make things change. The unwanted effects caused by her policies can be improved after the French economy recovery; however, doing nothing will cause the death of France”
But, according to Chinese people, Marine Le Pen‘s support for trade-protection and the right to leave the EU might make French economy weaker. Because of her policy, Chinese opinion doesn’t fully support her.
This comment says: “Le Pen cannot be president; Macron would be a better president than her. But she can be a good minister of the interior ministry. The most important thing is economic development.”
Emmanuel Macron 马克龙– “Elite but too politically correct” “过于政治正确的精英
Social Media Sentiment Analysis: Neutral
Pro-China? Emmanuel Macron doesn’t have any clear projects concerning China. Nevertheless, thanks to his middle of the roader party “En Marche” (EM), he wants to improve the current European situation, which is good for Chinese development. Self-identifying as a “Maoist”, he quotes Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping during his meetings.
What about the Chinese opinion? According to Eva Wu, an education consultant, Macron is able to improve the French economy thanks to his strong appeal to the innovation in the labor field. Thanks to his experience as minister of the economy, he has strong and efficient political commitments and must introduce new breathe of the French economy according to Chinese opinion.
This comment says: “Macron has experience in economic management. Currently, the priority is the French economy recovery, and Macron is the one who could bring progress to France.”
Nevertheless, according to other netizens, Macron is a smart man but too serious and too “politically correct” to bring strong solutions to France. Even worse, Chinese people think he doesn’t have the stature of a chef of state and seems to be a lax person concerning Islam issues.
This comment says: “If Macron becomes president, he is only going to worsen the “Islam problem” in France.”
The social outcast candidates
Jean Luc Mélenchon 梅朗雄, “The wise but conservative man” “明智但过于保守”
Social Media Sentiment Analysis: Neutral
Pro-China? With his movement “La France insoumise” (FI), Mélenchon, the leader of the far left wing party, the communist party (PCF), wants to improve commercial relationships with China and make the integration of the Chinese community better within French society. Mélenchon supports China about the Tibetan situation. According to him, the Dalai Lama should pray rather than participate in politics.
What about the Chinese opinion? From the denunciation of the separatist movement by Tibet in 2008, Mélenchon has conquered the heart of the few Chinese people who actually know him. Some recent comments on social networks declared that the candidate of the Communist party is one of the rare French politicians who support Chinese rights.
This comment says: “Mélenchon respects other countries. He always seeks to cooperate with French partners. He is wise.”
Some netizens think that Mélenchon makes his political commitments more flexible. He doesn’t offer strong solutions like he did during his last election campaign in 2012.
This comment says: “He doesn’t have a powerful strategy for France compared to four years ago.”
Like Mélenchon, Benoît Hamon, rightwing presidential candidate for the Socialist Party (PS), is not a hot topic in China. There are just a few mixed comments talking about him, particularly concerning his basic income proposal (600 euro/month) for those between the ages of 18 and 25.
This comment says: “It a well-intended idea, but where the money will come from to finance their income? France cannot afford.”
This comment says: “This is an unrealistic promise.”
Others candidates, Nathalie Arthaud (“ Lutte Ouvrière”, LO) Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (“Debout La France”, DLF) and François Asselineau (Union Populaire Républicaine, UPR) have succeeded to reach the precious 500 signatures that validate their participation in the French elections 2017. These candidates, not that popular in France, are definitely unknown in China. No data has been founded concerning these candidates for the French elections 2017.
How did the favorite candidates get the Chinese public attention during the French elections 2017?
Only the three leading candidates of the French elections 2017 (Fillon, Macron, and Le Pen) are well-known in China.
Marine Le Pen is the hottest topic on the Chinese web. Especially during electoral campaigns, Chinese people like strong personalities, as that was the case with Trump, for his entertainment value. Nevertheless, many Chinese think that she is too aggressive and she is regarded as “dangerous”. If Fillon is the favorite candidate, he is also known for the widely discussed “Penelope-Gate” scandal.
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