The Biggest Obstacle to China Policy: President Trump

The Biggest Obstacle to China Policy: President Trump

The Biggest Obstacle to China Policy: President Trump

The Biggest Obstacle to China Policy: President Trump

Critics of the administration’s actions on China say hawkish officials have overreached or adopted misguided measures — for example, pushing a trade war that has resulted in mainly American companies paying about $55 billion in tariffs and caused suffering among farmers, or starting tit-for-tat punishments against Chinese media organizations that have resulted in the expulsions of American reporters from China.

In a charitable sense, Mr. Trump’s willingness to cut deals with Mr. Xi can be seen as a corrective to that. But Mr. Trump’s approach is rooted only in his concerns about his political future and not in any understanding of foreign policy or American interests, according to Mr. Bolton.

“Trump’s conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump’s mind of his own political interests and U.S. national interests,” Mr. Bolton wrote, according to excerpted text. “Trump commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security. I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations.”

The administration has generally been divided between those who see China as a national security threat and those who see it as a business opportunity. Mr. Bolton was in the former camp, as are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser; and Peter Navarro, a White House trader adviser. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom Mr. Bolton calls a “panda hugger,” and Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, have advocated moderate policies to preserve commercial ties.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, also has. In December 2018, when Mr. Trump told Mr. Xi and other Chinese officials at a dinner in Buenos Aires that Mr. Kushner would take part in trade negotiations, “all the Chinese perked up and smiled,” Mr. Bolton wrote.

Though Mr. Navarro is aligned ideologically with Mr. Bolton on China, he defended Mr. Trump’s policies in a talk with reporters on Thursday.

“My take on him is it’s Big Lie Bolton, it’s Book Deal Bolton,” Mr. Navarro said. “He is doing it for the money, that is pretty clear, and my view is it’s the Washington swamp’s equivalent of revenge porn.”


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