Donald Trump may have felt pretty good ridiculing his opponents with nicknames from Crooked Hillary to Sleepy Joe, from Ron DeSanctimonius to Birdbrain for Nikki Haley. What he may not know is that his Chinese fans have long beat him at his own game with “Comrade Trump the China Builder.” They even joked about Trump as being China’s biggest and deepest mole in the U.S. and that his covert goal was destroying America.
One Chinese news outlet traced the beginning of the thinking that Trump might be secretly on China’s side to an interview then-President Trump gave in early 2017 to the Wall Street Journal, in which he repeated what President Xi Jinping had told him that “Korea really used to be part of China.” His words brought cheers among the Chinese.
Comrade Trump in the White House, steadily and faithfully helped the Chinese along, thus cementing their suspicion of his real loyalty.
Soon after his inauguration, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal excluding China. With that, as a Cato analysis pointed out, the U.S. lost not only potential increases in both its GDP and real income but also a prominent seat at the table to help shape trade rules in the Asia Pacific and to counter China’s influence. Most important, the remaining members of the TPP went ahead with a new initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which included China, but not the U.S.
In Aug. 2017, the Trump administration notified the UN of its intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. Also withdrawn were U.S. funding and leadership in the world-wide fight against climate change, giving clout to China in global climate politics. A Reuters headline said, “No longer ‘climate bad boy,’ China steps up as Trump quits Paris deal.” Forbes said that Beijing popped champagne corks as U.S. was ceding the leadership of international energy policy to China, the world’s biggest polluter. On his own first day in office, President Biden announced the U.S. was rejoining the Climate Accord.
In June 2018, Trump’s Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced the U.S. withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, which she said had become hypocritical, making a mockery of human rights. Even though China’s Foreign Ministry expressed regret over the U.S. decision, the Chinese media often cheered China’s successive elections to the Human Rights Council since its creation in 2006. While there, as Human Rights Watch stated, the Chinese government had sought to neutralize U.N. scrutiny of China.
Particularly, China succeeded in deflecting criticisms of its detention of a million Uighurs in Xinjiang, in compromising the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to Xinjiang, and in delaying for four years a report on Xinjiang, which went without any further investigation. Once again, President Biden returned the U.S. to the Human Rights Council in 2022.
Aside from all the withdrawals from international treaties or organizations, Trump also started a trade war, or tariff war, with China, ostensibly to show how tough he was on China. From 2018 to 2019, the U.S. imposed additional tariffs, from the original 3.1% to over 19%, on a total of $550 billion worth of Chinese imports. The goal was to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China and change China’s unfair trade practices. But the trade war boomeranged.
A study by the US-China Business Council showed that the trade war with China hurt the American economy, with an estimated peak loss of 245,000 jobs. The tariffs did reduce Chinese imports, according to Politico, and lowered the U.S. trade deficit with China to $311 billion in 2020 from $419 billion in 2018. To avoid the tariffs on “Made in China” goods, Chinese manufacturers simply moved their factories to other countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and Mexico. As one result, the U.S. combined goods and services trade deficit with the rest of the world increased to $679 billion in 2020 from $481 billion in 2016.
The tariffs failed in other ways. U.S. real income declined by $1.4 billion per month by the end of the first year the tariffs were in place. American importers and consumers paid an additional $42 billion between February 2018, when the trade war began, through October 2019. U.S. exporters to China also had to pay additional tariffs that China imposed in retaliation, from the original 8% to over 20%. In addition, most of these tariffs, paid by American consumers and collected by the U.S. government were then paid to American farmers, in a total of $66 billion, for their losses caused by China’s retaliation. In sum, Trump’s tariffs on China harmed America instead of China.
There was also the semiconductor war. In May 2019, the Trump administration banned the Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei from buying vital U.S. technology. In December, Trump’s Commerce Department banned China’s top chipmaker SMIC from using American technology.
As with the tariff war, the semiconductor war with China also backfired on American semiconductor producers like Qualcomm, whose majority revenues came from China, or industries that relied on semiconductors, like automakers from Ford to Toyota. As for China, the columnist Hu Xijin of China’s Global Times said, if Trump hadn’t threatened with this big stick, China wouldn’t have realized that they could be choked in critical technologies. The bans, he said, served as a wake-up call that China should do all it can to make up every one of its high-tech shortcomings.
Comrade Trump earned additional cheers from his fans in China when he declared in 2019 that he was bringing American troops back home and when he repeatedly talked about in 2018 and 2019 withdrawing the U.S. from NATO, and when he ordered a reduction of 12,000 troops from Germany in 2020.
But the biggest cheer Trump gave China was the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot he instigated and egged on. China’s International Online gloated in a headline, “U.S. Capitol attacked; Election certification obstructed; American ‘beacon of democracy’ fell.” Xinhua News made it one of its top ten stories of 2021, and wrote:
“The bloody event taking place at the highest hall of politics of the United States shocked the world. It highlighted the giant cracks in the American society and shattered the illusion of the ‘American-style democracy.’ People can now see more clearly that the ‘American-style democracy’ has become a tool for American politicians to incite public opinions and maximize their own interests.”
But Comrade Trump was not done. He is now leading in the polls in the 2024 Republican presidential campaigns. His fans in China are watching with excitement. One Weibo blogger wrote, sarcastically: “An old man, with a low and hoarse voice, speaks about his loves and worries from the bottom of his heart. His passions are now inferior to those of young people. His unconquerable courage will surely restore the glory to the United States. Trump the China Builder is back.”
Another quipped, “The Party should really protect Comrade Trump. Only he can lead the U.S. to a rapid decline. Hahahaha.”