Chinese social media lit up Thursday over an appearance by Ivanka Trump and her daughter at a Lunar New Year celebration at Beijing’s embassy in Washington.
Photos and video went viral, showing Ms. Trump and 5-year-old Arabella being hosted at the Wednesday night event by China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai. On the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, the term #Trump’sDaughterVisitsChina’sEmbassy in Chinese quickly zoomed up to become the seventh most-searched item on Thursday.
Just as remarked, however, was the lack so far of Year of the Rooster wishes from President Trump.
“Trump’s daughter visits China’s embassy and wishes China a happy New Year! The daughter understands more than the father,” one Weibo user said.
The Lunar New Year — the most important holiday in China — is celebrated in several countries across Asia and by Chinese around the world. It has become an occasion for global leaders to offer up well wishes. In 2015, British royal Prince William wished China a happy Year of the Sheep in Mandarin in a video televised across the nation. When they were presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama issued Lunar New Year messages.
As the start of the Year of the Rooster officially came and went over the weekend, Chinese media noted the conspicuous absence of a similar tribute from Mr. Trump.
“Her father, the new U.S. president, has broken the tradition of sending New Year greetings to people of Chinese origin in the U.S. during their most important festival,” a China Daily slideshow of photos featuring Ms. Trump noted.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some social media posts gave Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt, saying the lack of new year’s greetings may not have been a deliberate snub, but the work of his advisers. Mr. Trump has vowed to get tough with China over its trade and currency policies, and his advisers have called for countering Chinese actions in the South China Sea with a naval blockade.
“To be honest, I think that Trump really maybe just forgot. He’s surrounded by anti-China people. There wouldn’t be anyone to remind him,” wrote another Weibo user. “Now it’s already too late, and to wish happy New Year under pressure from the media would mean losing face, right? So he just lets his daughter make an appearance.”
Video from the Chinese Embassy function featured Arabella and her mother being shown rooster paper cutouts and art made from melted sugar, as well as posing with costumed Chinese opera performers.
Arabella has previously endeared herself to the Chinese public after a video of her reciting Chinese poetry was widely circulated last year. On Thursday, social media users further amused themselves by analyzing her less-than-enthusiastic facial expressions captured at the embassy’s event. “She looks like I do when I don’t want to visit my relatives,” ran one.
“It looks like she’s angling for yasuiqian,” wrote another, referring to the red envelopes tucked with cash traditionally handed out to children over the holiday.
While Mr. Trump may have yet to formally extend his well wishes for the holiday Year of the Rooster, he has in other ways inspired the Year of the Rooster in China. A shopping mall in the central city of Taiyuan put up a large rooster sculpture with a Trump-like hairstyle in central China, inspiring balloons of similar design.
By Te-Ping Chen. Follow her on Twitter @tepingchen.
The Wall Street Journal