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BEIJING — While China's government has avoided responding to Donald Trump attacks by name, it seems the rest of the country may have missed the memo about the GOP's likely nominee.
The Republican frontrunner has repeatedly put China in his crosshairs, saying its trade policies are "killing" America and its currency devaluations will "suck the blood out" of the States.
Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric even further this week by accusing China of "raping" the U.S. — an escalation deemed all the more alarming now that the candidate has all-but clinched the Republican nomination.
Victor Gao, a former interpreter for Chinese President Deng Xiaoping, said a Trump presidency would "mark a substantive decline" in U.S. influence around the world.
“I have been following elections for several decades ... and I am traumatized by the depth of [Trump's] indecency,” Gao added.
Sami Zheng, a Beijing-based editor, echoed Gao's concerns.
“A country like the U.S. should not have a president like him,” Zheng told NBC News.
The Chinese government has mostly resisted responding to Trump's attacks — with the exception of Finance Minister Lou Jiwei calling the candidate "irrational" last month. But on Wednesday, Beijing issued a thinly-veiled response to Trump's strong overnight showing.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged Americans to "rationally and objectively" think about the China-U.S. relationship even as he told reporters he could not comment on the "internal" matter of the White House election.
Hong didn't refer to Trump by name, but that's unlikely to dent the candidate's celebrity status in China.
Even before declaring his candidacy Trump's name carried weight in China, with numerous companies "borrowing" his name for business-branding purposed.
There's Shenzhen Trump Industries — which manufactures high-end toilets — along with Trump Property Management, Trump Electronics Shanghai and a state-owned car brand, "Trumpchi," which boasts fish-tank SUV armrests.
Not everyone sees the business benefit, or humor, in Trump’s remarkable rise. The South China Morning Post referred to Trump Wednesday as a "brash man with no political experience" who has rendered the U.S. race "vicious and volatile."
A March editorial in the English-language daily, Global Times, called him a “rich narcissist” and a “racist” whose ascent should serve as a warning that democracy is “scary.”
On Wednesday, the newspaper cautioned that the scenario of a Trump presidency was looking "increasingly serious."
The criticism is unlikely to deter Trump's legions of fans on social media. While users of the Twitter-like platform Weibo often mock the Republican contender, they also have afforded him a level of respect for being a strongman who doesn't withhold his opinions.
“He points out the truth. That is why he is so popular,” wrote one Weibo user. "Plus he is 70 and is still chasing for his dream while some people kill their dreams when they are 30.”