Inkstone
    Mar
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    Mar
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    You’re “Not My President,” overseas Chinese students tell Xi Jinping
    You’re “Not My President,” overseas Chinese students tell Xi Jinping
    POLITICS

    You’re “Not My President,” overseas Chinese students tell Xi Jinping

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    by
    Grace Tsoi
    Grace Tsoi
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    Chinese students in the US are borrowing the “Not My President” slogan, which has been used against Donald Trump and George W. Bush, to voice their opposition to the proposed abolition of presidential term limits in China.  

    Posters carrying the image of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the words “Not My President” have been popping up on US campuses.

    The first posters appeared at the University of California, San Diego last week, according to Foreign Policy.

    Similar posters have been seen at seven other US universities, including Columbia University, New York University and Indiana University.

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    The campaign has now spread to university campuses in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

    “We don't need another emperor”

    Posters in English and Chinese have been shared by the organizers, who tweet under the handle @STOPXIJINPING.

    The account's first tweet reads: “It's 2018, we don't need another Emperor.”

    China plans to remove term limits for the presidency and vice-presidency this weekend.

    Critics say that the removal of term limits will pave the way for Xi, who is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, to stay in power for life.

    A Chinese undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin told Inkstone why he posted anti-Xi Jinping posters on campus.

    “It was not easy [for China] to start modernization... But [the Chinese government] is now bringing things backwards. It is unacceptable," he said.

    “I am very disappointed. I considered returning to the country after finishing my studies. Now I want to say in America.”

    American influence?

    More than 540,000 Chinese students studied abroad in 2016. China is the biggest source of overseas students in the world.

    The US is the most popular destination, with about 350,000 such students.

    Experts believe it is an example of how Chinese students studying in the US could be influenced by American values and ideas.

    “They do seem to be borrowing a slogan. I’m not sure it’s the best one, but it fits the pushback against the global rise of strongman politics,” said Mary Gallagher, a political science professor at the University of Michigan.

    “In that sense, yes, I think students are expressing values of traditional liberalism."

    Anonymity

    The organizers told Inkstone that they were a group of current students and recent graduates, but declined to say more, citing security concerns.

    They said on Twitter that the first posters at UCSD were placed at night.

    They also reminded students to post signs only if they could ensure their personal safety, or wear masks to hide their identities.

    “Chinese students are worried about their families back home and their own futures if they return to China," said Gallagher. “It’s also highly possible that there is just social pressure to appear patriotic.”

    Mainstream opinion?

    The organizers have not disclosed the number of participants, but it does not appear to be a mass, mainstream campaign.

    Dali Yang, a professor at the University of Chicago, told Inkstone that overseas Chinese students in the US were a diverse group.

    “These are clearly students who feel strongly about recent developments in China. But most Chinese students, and there are close to 400,000 of them, appear to be focused on their studies.”

    “Most follow developments at home with great interest, especially as they are connected via WeChat and other programs, but many also tend to stay away from politics."

    The criticism by overseas Chinese students mirror some of the complaints seen online in China, at least before they were deleted by censors.

    GRACE TSOI
    GRACE TSOI
    Grace is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone. She was previously a senior producer for BBC Chinese.

    GRACE TSOI
    GRACE TSOI
    Grace is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone. She was previously a senior producer for BBC Chinese.

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