8 things Donald Trump definitely shouldn’t do while in China
A handy crib sheet for Donald Trump’s trip to China.
Donald Trump will soon arrive in China to continue his marathon tour of Asia, which has so far seen him take in Japan and South Korea.
The US president will attend a series of events and meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Travelling somewhere so new and different can be difficult, and in China especially there’s a lot to remember in order to avoid causing offence. So here are a few tips:
1. Don’t boast
Unemployment is down to 4.1%, lowest in 17 years. 1.5 million new jobs created since I took office. Highest stock Market ever, up $5.4 trill— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2017
Humility, especially in the face of compliments, is a big thing in China.
When complimented it would be considered inappropriate to accept it. The correct response would be to instead deny the compliment categorically, even going as far as to assert that the opposite might be true. So if someone says your coat is nice, you might insist that it’s actually really ugly.
Trump isn’t a world leader known for his modesty, instead preferring to boast quite a lot about his achievements. In China, that may not be received so warmly.
2. Don’t wear a green hat
Trump doesn’t necessarily need to only wear a red cap if the sun gets a bit much while in China, but he should avoid green hats at all costs.
Wearing a green hat in China suggests that a man’s wife or girlfriend has been unfaithful to him.
One explanation for this is that the phrase “wearing a green hat” sounds a lot like the word for cuckold – while another theory is that the families of prostitutes were made to wear green hats during the Yuan Dynasty.
There are actually a lot of stories about how this cultural tradition may have formed, but the important thing for Trump to remember if he doesn’t want to embarrass himself is: stick to the red hat.
3. Don’t call anyone by their first name
In China the collective is more important than the individual and, as such, individuals are known by their family name. Joe Bloggs would be written out Bloggs Joe, and is no longer Joe, but Bloggs.
So if someone is introduced to Trump as Li Wei, for example, it would be correct to refer to him as Mr Li from then on.
4. Don’t forget to bring gifts
Small gifts are exchanged a lot in China and, although they’re generally refused a couple of times before being accepted, bringing gifts for business meetings or other pre-arranged meetings is seen as a gesture of good will.
This is one that Trump’s team will presumably have covered, but it’s worth Trump remembering the rule about compliments when he hands a gift over. It’s definitely not a done thing to brag about the gift you brought, and any compliments received for it should probably be refused.
5. Don’t slip up with the chopsticks
Having already spent some time in Japan on this trip, Trump is likely already aware of how much can go wrong when dining with chopsticks.
But the most important thing to remember while eating with chopsticks in China, much like in Japan, is to not leave the implements sticking vertically out of a bowl.
Burning incense is part of tradition at funerals, and pointed chopsticks can remind people of that. This one’s definitely a big no.
6. Likewise, don’t mention death
It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Trump has reason to bring up death – talks are more likely to centre around economics than philosophy or religion – but it’s a subject best avoided.
Death is an ominous and touchy subject everywhere, but particularly in China, and even talking about people who’ve died should probably be off the cards.
Political issues can also be an area best left alone for visitors to the country but, in Trump’s shoes, that one’s a little more difficult to sidestep.
7. Avoid touching people
As a rule, people in China are less affectionately huggy and kissy – a firm but brief handshake will do the trick when greeting someone.
Given that Trump is a self-confessed germaphobe, this will probably be an easy one to remember.
8. Don’t embarrass anyone
This is a given in every culture – but publicly humiliating someone, or causing them to lose face, is considered the worst thing you can do to someone in China.
Whether it’s contradicting someone in front of other people, pointing out a mistake, or getting angry at someone – these are all things that could cause someone a great deal of embarrassment and could provoke an ugly reaction.
There are definitely a few other things Trump would do best to avoid, but stick to these and he should be okay.