‘Brutal, amoral, ruthless, cheating’: how Trump’s new trade tsar sees China

An image from Peter Navarro’s 2012 documentary Death by China Photograph: Netflix

An image from Peter Navarro’s 2012 documentary Death by China Photograph: Netflix

The Chinese government is a despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power that reigns over the world’s leading cancer factory, its most prolific propaganda mill and the biggest police state and prison on the face of the earth.

That is the view of Peter Navarro, the man chosen by Donald Trump to lead a new presidential office for US trade and industrial policy, a move likely to add to Beijing’s anxieties over the billionaire’s plans for US-China relations.

China’s rulers initially appeared to embrace the possibility that improved ties with Washington could be negotiated with the deal-making US president-elect.

But that enthusiasm has dimmed after Trump angered Beijing with a succession of controversial interventions on sensitive issues including Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The appointment of Navarro, a University of California, Irvine business professor, to run the White House’s newly created national trade council, represents a further blow to those hopes.

Navarro has penned a number of vociferously anti-China tomes including Death by China and Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World.

In The Coming China Wars – a 2006 book that Trump has called one of his favourite on China – Navarro portrays the Asian country as a nightmarish realm where “the raw stench of a gut-wrenching, sweat-stained fear” hangs in the air and myopic, venal and incompetent Communist party officials rule the roost.

Speaking shortly before Navarro’s appointment was confirmed, Andrew Nathan, a China expert at Columbia University, said Trump’s plans for relations with Beijing remained an enigma despite the presence of several prominent China hawks in his camp.

“Trump has shown two sides to his personality in dealing with everybody. One is: ‘Let’s make a deal, we are deal-makers.’ And the other one is: ‘You hurt my feelings and I’m going to bomb the shit out of you because I never lose – I always win’,” said the political scientist.

“I don’t know whether he is setting up China for a deal. In fact, I don’t know if he is that deliberate or whether his mood just changes from time-to-time depending on how the other side treats him.”

Christopher Balding, a Peking University finance professor, said that for all Navarro’s “alarmist” and “inflammatory” musings on China, he was unlikely to be able to follow through on his most radical beliefs once in government.

“I think Navarro is going to quickly realise the constraints that he is under,” he said.

“They come as professors, they come as businessmen and they get into office as the secretary-of-whatever and they quickly realise … that they cannot just implement their pet idea or their classroom theory,” Balding said, predicting there would be “strong push-back” from the US business community were hefty tariffs to be imposed on imports from China.

Li Yonghui, the head of the school of international relations at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, said Navarro’s rise was consistent with Trump’s hawkish thoughts on China and would leave Beijing “a little worried” even if he still believed a radical shake-up of US-China relations was unlikely.

“We should stay vigilant. We have to be prepared,” the academic said. “Trump will certainly place unprecedented pressure on China.”

Asked for Beijing’s reaction to Trump’s hire, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry replied only that it was closely monitoring the transition and possible policy directions.

“As two superpowers, China and the US have extensive common interests,” Hua Chunying told reporters. “Cooperation is the only correct choice.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site.