Make China great again: After Trump’s ZTE tweets, trade policy looks more incoherent than ever | Spanlish


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Make China great again: After Trump’s ZTE tweets, trade policy looks more incoherent than ever



Nothing makes sense anymore, especially in American politics and specifically when following the daily neck-cracking whiplash of the Donald Trump administration. After nearly 18 months of this presidency, to observe that Trump and his people are walking, talking contradictions isn’t quite breaking news. Indeed, panicked confusion tends to be the most frequent reaction as Trump, ever the flailing monkey-with-a-machine-gun, botches and bungles his way through a job that appears to be far beyond his capabilities and understanding.

Take, for example, Trump's bewildering relationship with his frenemy, President Xi Jinping of China. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump told his deeply gullible fanboys that China (pronounced as if it were the last two syllables in "vagina") was one of the greatest enemies of American economic interests. I believe Trump once warned that if elected, he wouldn’t allow China to “rape our country.” Not fake news, and there's not a lot of gray area there. Feel free to disagree, but “rape” is a fairly robust metaphor for China’s impact on American jobs and national finance. Likewise, back in 2012, Trump attacked then-President Obama for his auto bailout, wondering aloud why the hell Obama was “creating jobs in China. He is ruining [the] American auto industry.”

So imagine the world’s astonishment when Trump tweeted the following on Sunday from his golf resort in Sterling, Virginia:

Admittedly, we’ve been ceaselessly assaulted with a firehose of political news for the last three years, including an interminable litany of Russian names. But I honestly can’t recall Trump promising to create jobs in China. You’re not insane if you recollect that he promised the exact opposite -- to bring overseas jobs back to American soil.

The contradictions and broken promises here, however, only begin the list of reasons why his China tweet was so perplexing.

First of all, you might recall that ZTE, the Chinese company for which Trump evidently plans to create jobs, was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government and the Commerce Department. According to The New York Times, ZTE was sanctioned because it “failed to reprimand employees who violated American trade controls on Iran and North Korea.” Put another way, ZTE is a notorious sanctions breaker, shattering the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, including its interactions with two “axis of evil” nations, both of which represent profound headaches for American foreign policy.

The sanctions are what caused the loss of jobs at ZTE, which was forced to close as a consequence of those sanctions. On top of the sanctions, ZTE paid a $1.2 billion fine as well.

Promising to save a company that the Trump administration had itself sanctioned seems, I don’t know -- bewildering? Strange? Perhaps insane?

In addition to the sanctions, Trump also recently applied tariffs on Chinese goods, including telecom-related imports of digital components and the like. It’s worth noting that ZTE was one of the biggest telecom outfits in all of China. That said, the tariffs probably had little impact on ZTE, since -- as part of the sanctions not the tariffs -- the Trump administration had previously banned ZTE from doing business in the U.S. for seven years. Furthermore, the Commerce Department forced the company to fire its top executives as well as 35 other employees. All of which adds up, quite literally, to the opposite of what Trump tweeted on Sunday. It makes zero sense to apply tariffs and sanctions against China and ZTE, including layoffs, while concurrently ballyhooing a trade war, if he's just going to flip-flop days later and promise to create Chinese jobs anyway.

Why exactly was ZTE being punished so severely in the first place? In addition to its sanctions violations, it turns out ZTE was busily working on ways to spy on American citizens. Gizmodo reported:

Heads of the NSA, FBI, and CIA cited concerns that [ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese tech giant] may be using their technology to spy on US consumers, and then sharing that data with the Chinese government, though none of those agencies has provided evidence of that behavior actually taking place.

Let’s review. We’re in a Trump-manufactured trade war against China. China is allegedly raping our country, according to Trump. China’s ZTE has violated sanctions against Iran and North Korea. ZTE has also been accused by the American intelligence community of espionage against American citizens. Among the dual punishments (tariffs and sanctions), the company was forced to shut down operations, fire a number of staffers and pay more than a billion dollars in fines. And yet Trump just now publicly pledged to help President Xi create more Chinese jobs, mentioning aid to ZTE by name.

Oh, and I completely forgot to mention that Trump’s favorite mustache and current national security adviser, John Bolton, appeared on CNN Sunday morning and declared that NATO allies and corporations in those nations that do business with Iran will be severely punished. Perhaps Bolton, like Rudy Giuliani, is new to the administration and doesn’t realize that ZTE conducts business with Iran, prompting the elephant-in-the-room question: Why does ZTE get the latitude to violate sanctions while U.S. allies do not?

“America first,” Trump shrieks to thunderous applause at every opportunity. It was one of his biggest promises, if not the biggest, as well as a central theme of his inaugural address. But if all this is part of his negotiations for the denuclearization of North Korea, by way of China, he has a lot of nerve criticizing previous deals like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (aka the "Iran deal”).

Given the brain-melting nature of this reversal, combined with Trump’s amateur-hour foreign policy acumen, we have no choice but to ask whether Trump’s being manipulated by Xi and his regime. I’d say that's perhaps the best explanation for his ZTE tweet.

And how do the supporters of Trump's Red Hat Army feel about making a deal over North Korea at the expense of American jobs? You know what? The answer is that they'll probably be fine with it, because the Red Hat Army will support anything Trump does or says, even if it means they personally get the fuzzy end of the orange lollipop. That aside, it’s worth mentioning that “Make China Great Again” would fit nicely on those red hats, despite confounding all logic, reason and consistency.

Can Larry Kudlow stop Trump's trade war?

Future presidential economic adviser talked to Salon in 2016 about his views on taxes, trade and growth.

Source: Make China great again: After Trump’s ZTE tweets, trade policy looks more incoherent than ever

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