“Female Trump” (女版川普) vs.“Popular elite” (人气精英): A Look Behind The Nicknames
The French election is not as hot of a topic as the American elections in China. Only 4,498 WeChat articles were created regarding French elections, whereas 28,608 were created for the hotly debated American election. Nevertheless, French elections are still very much a hot topic for the people of China.
While the Chinese people saw their favorite in the US presidential election win (Trump), it would seem that the results of the first round of the French presidential elections thwarted initial Chinese predictions. Previous research conducted by Daxue Consulting published on April 6th 2017, saw Francois Fillon conquering the hearts of Chinese netizens. But the question remains can Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the two big winners of the first round, win the attention of the Chinese as did Mr. Fillon.
On April 23rd at 8:00 pm, the Chinese media announced that 马克龙 (Emmanuel Macron) and 勒庞 (Marine Le Pen) were the winners of the first round of the French presidential elections. China, a strong economic partner with France, is keeping a very watchful eye on these heated elections.
CCTV (China Central Television) reports that Macron and Le Pen lead in the first round April 24th
First Round Results Make A Splash On Chinese Social Media
Baidu Index For Keywords 法国大选 (French Elections)
April 1 – May 1
The Baidu Index (百度指数) shown above, is a keyword index that reflects the total number of search inquiries on China’s leading search engine shows the evolution of search volume regarding the keyword ‘French Elections’ (法国大选). Before first round elections (April 1st – April 22nd), the Baidu Index was around 1,000 and began increasing immediately following the first round winner announcements. The following day, the Baidu Index had multiplied nearly 52 times (51,973), clearly indicating the world’s second largest economy is gaining more interest in the French election.
Baidu Index Evolution For Le Pen and Macron
(before and after the first round)
Baidu Index for Presidential Nominees Before The First Round
January 1 – March 31
According to previous Daxue Consulting research, the Baidu Index trend concerning French candidates was clear. Marine Le Pen was the hottest topic on Chinese social media before the first round (January 1 – March 31). Marine Le Pen (above graph shown in blue) was searched by Chinese netizens nine times more than Macron (in green). Prior to April 12th, the keyword ‘马克龙’ which is Macron’s Chinese name wasn’t a trending word on Baidu, whereas his French name was relevant in our research. Le Pen’s Chinese name however was already being used amongst Chinese netizens.
Baidu Search After The First Round
April 22 – April 27
The graph above shows the evolution of the search volume between April 22nd – April 27th which is completely different from the one presented previously. After April 24th, Macron’s Baidu Index (in green) had multiplied 16 times from an average of 1,409 (between April 12 – 22) to 22,911 (between April 24 – 27) making him the hottest topic on Chinese media. While a few days before, Emmanuel Macron never reached this large volume. Marine Le Pen (in blue) is far behind Macron (39,978) in terms of number of search inquires (13,763 on the same day) showing that the trend had clearly reversed.
Search Behavior For Le Pen and Macron April 12 – April 27
Primary keywords associated for Marine Le Pen (in the last circles, weekly related): “why is Le Pen dangerous” and “Le Pen’s attitude towards China”
Regarding search behavior (相关词分析) on the Baidu Index, keywords in association with candidates closely mirror Le Pen’s attitude towards China and to which extent Le Pen can be considered dangerous.
Primary keywords associated for Emmanuel Macron in Articles: “Macron’s Wife”
One month ago, search analysis of 马克龙 (Macron) wasn’t relevant in Baidu. Nevertheless, most topics in Chinese social media are talking about his personal life. Indeed, a large portion of coorelated keywords relate back to Macron’s wife, Brigitte Macron and his elitist past.
There was a before and an after first round on Chinese social media networks. Macron was non-existent on social networks less than a month ago and now is the hottest topic in the Chinese social media universe.
The Last Duel For The Presidency
Emmanuel Macron 马克龙 – The “Popular Elite” Candidate “人气精英”
In mid March of 2017, a major Chinese magazine “看世界” (See The World) placed Macron on the cover page and titled, “Will He Become the French President?”. Chinese people have since regarded him as a popular elite candidate with a charming outlook and a shinning background.
An unusual story
Nearly 8 of the 10 WeChat articles most viewed regarding Macron deal with his love life with his 64 year old wife, Brigitte Macron who has 7 grandchildren. The majority of the keyword searches illustrate Chinese netizens opinion about his relationship. According to most Chinese, a man who is getting married with his 64 year old school teacher and thereby becoming a grandpa at the age of 39 is extremely unusual.
Among one of the top 8 articles talking about him, a large majority of Chinese expressed with humor their surprise about this situation. One comment liked 369 times, refers to the Chinese folk adage to describe his surprise:
“Now, this woman is 8 times 3 years older than her husband, so she will bring a president to him”
Even if a large amount of topics on Chinese social media focus on Marcon’s life-story, Chinese people are also focused on his political stance.
The Success Of The Extreme Middle Wing
A CCTV commentator, Su Xiaohui (苏晓晖), highlights that Macron and his non-traditional spirit fits French people’s requirement for a new President. To illustrate, a famous user on Zhihu (知乎) with 50k followers wrote, “Macron is more reliable according to his economic plan based on the innovation of labor markets”. According to the European Times newspaper, the Chinese French community is also approving of his pro-China policy, stating, “Macron will place emphasis on the relationship between China and France”.
Emmanuel Macron led his campaign with his movement “En Marche!”, which he defines as neither a left nor a right movement. On Zhihu, one of the hottest questions asked to the Chinese community was “What should people think about the results of the first round” (如何看待2017年法国大选第一轮投票，马克龙得票居于首位?) and received 36 answers. Among those answers, 66% support Macron but one quarter of them think he can’t afford to France strong solutions.
Marine Le Pen勒庞– The “Female Trump” 女版川普
From father to daughter political history
Chinese people are extremely interested in Marine’s family controversial past as she is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the ex-leader of the French far-right party. Four out of 10 Weibo articles most viewed regarding Marine Le Pen deal with her young life. They explained how she seized power from her father and how she became so aggressive.
A Reversed Result
Three of the 10 most viewed Weibo topics deal with how the situation in France will be after she becomes the President and describe Marine Le Pen as another Trump. Among these three estimations, only one estimated she will win. Among the 20 most liked comments, 65% say Le Pen can bring solutions to France. The other 35% support Macron because Chinese people would say the far right candidate is going to aggravate France’s Chinese community.
Some hot comments:
This comment says: “Le Pen become the president, she will bring France a new revolution”. (92 likes)
This comment says: “Only Le Pen can save France.” (51 likes)
One trending question on Zhihu asked, “How can we explain the sudden rise of the far-right in this French election?” and received an answer stating, “Marine Le Pen is the one who can temporarily stabilize the situation in France whereas Macron is nothing different from traditional politicians”.
Many Chinese think only that Marine Le Pen can bring strong enough measures and Macron would be too politically correct to bring solutions to France.
Nevertheless Chinese opinions about Le Pen are mixed. Another trending question on Zhihu asks, “what Chinese people think about the results?”. The netizen using the pseudo Zhangvitamin, which got the most likes (123) stated, “Macron will win some extreme terrorism. Several days ago the gun event in Avenue des Champs Elysees saved Le Pen, otherwise she will be beaten by Fillion”.
Some Chinese people doubt the credibility of Marine Le Pen for being in the second round.
Anti-Popularism Or Popularism
Which Candidate Is Going To Win According To Chinese Social Media?
The results of the first round show a lot of surprises on Chinese social media. The wave of interest Emmanuel Macron took away from Marine Le Pen is substantial, however, she still has some support from netizens. According to our research on several Chinese social networks Chinese people seem to be interested in Macron by his atypical private life as well as in his policies. Now we must wonder, will the second round results make a mark on Chinese social media as the first round did and how will Chinese social networks perceive the new French President.