'Trump' Most Searched Term on Chinese Social Media in 2020

"Trump" was the most searched term among Chinese social media users last year, a report claimed, despite a severe public health crisis that brought the country to a standstill in the first quarter.

Between January 1 and December 24 last year, President Donald Trump found himself on the trending list of China's Twitter-like service Weibo 589 times, nearly 60 percent more often than the celebrity who came second.

According to data compiled by Shanghai news site The Paper, he was the only non-Chinese person and the only politician to appear on the list of 20 most-searched individuals in 2020.

"Trending individuals on Weibo came only in three categories," the report said, "epidemiologists, celebrities and Donald Trump."

Due to Chinese censorship of social media websites such as Weibo and WeChat, Newsweek could not independently verify whether the figures were a true representation of all user searches and whether any search results were hidden or removed.

However, the data suggests a significant interest among the Chinese in Trump over the past year as China-U.S. relations worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first reported in Wuhan.

The president's 589 times as a trending topic bested actor Wang Yibo's 348 occasions on the home page list, which refreshes every 10 minutes and guides much of the Weibo user experience.

In third place was Doctor Zhong Nanshan, the veteran pneumologist who discovered the severe acute respiratory syndrome—SARS—coronavirus in 2003, and who was awarded China's Medal of the Republic in September 2020 for helping to guide the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zhong, who was among Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2020, appeared on the Weibo trending list 321 times last year, when the site's monthly active user count peaked at 550 million during the first quarter.

Among the notable times that Trump trended in China was news in October that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The incident spawned Weibo's third most popular topic of the year—viewed over 2 million times—behind two hashtags about a celebrity scandal.

Trump, whose name has been viewed more than 2 billion times on the website overall, began 2021 with a Weibo hashtag about his leaked phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Social media posts, many including subtitled versions of the recording, have been read a total of 2.4 million times at the time of writing, according to Weibo's stat tally.

In a year defined by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Weibo searches about the initial outbreak topped more than 500 million between January 24 and 27 in the days after Wuhan was put on complete lockdown, said The Paper's report.

COVID-19 remained among the website's top 50 most searched terms throughout 2020, it added.

Donald Trump is China's Most Searched Person
A graph compiled by Shanghai news website The Paper on January 4, 2021, shows President Donald Trump as the most searched person on Chinese social media service Weibo in 2020. The Paper

The entertainment industry nonetheless dominated the 2020 trending chart. Fifteen of the 20 most-searched individuals were celebrities, with Zhong and Shanghai infectious disease expert Zhang Wenhong the only two medics on the list.

Trump has featured on Weibo's trending lists on numerous occasions, starting around his presidential run and rising during his victory in 2016.

The president has become the subject of many a hashtag since taking office in 2017 as relations between the United States and China took a sharp dip since the start of the ongoing trade war in 2018.

Other noteworthy moments include the Trump Administration's ban on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in May 2019, as well as U.S. sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials last year.

Despite positive signs following the agreement a Phase One trade deal in January 2020, Washington's relations with Beijing deteriorated again when Trump publicly called into question China's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak a few weeks later.

Chinese officials have described the year as one of the most challenging for bilateral relations since diplomatic ties were established in 1979.

Donald Trump Waves at Crowd in Beijing
File photo: President Donald Trump during his visit to Beijing, China, in November 2017. Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images