Ranting his way to the presidency, Donald Trump attacked China often for currency manipulation, unfair trade practices and copyright infringements to the detriment of our economy. He promised tough action to protect U.S. interests. Some of his actions have resulted in counter-measures from China. But, what high principles motivate our Grifter-in-Chief?
On May 2, Katie Collins reported for c/net: “The Pentagon has banned the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones on US military bases worldwide, the US Department of Defense confirmed to CNET on Wednesday. The ban is based on the potential security threat the Pentagon believes the phones from the China-based companies may pose. It’s the latest move in an ongoing crackdown on the two companies by the US government, which is suspicious that they could hack into their phones and use them to spy for the Chinese government. Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to Department’s personnel, information and mission,” said Pentagon spokesman Major Dave Eastburn….
Yeah, we’re getting tough on China – until … ”A mere 72 hours after the Chinese government agreed to put a half-billion dollars into an Indonesian project that will personally enrich Donald Trump, the president ordered a bailout for a Chinese-government-owned cell phone maker.”
S.V. Dale of the Huffington Post, writing May 14, continues the above report with a direct quote from our president: “’President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump announced on Twitter Sunday morning. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!’”
Notice that presidential exclamation point!
“Trump did not mention in that tweet or its follow-ups that on Thursday,” Dale continued, “the developer of a theme park resort outside of Jakarta had signed a deal to receive as much as $500 million in Chinese government loans, as well as another $500 million from Chinese banks, according to Agence France-Presse. Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization, has a deal to license the Trump name to the resort, which includes a golf course and hotels.
“Trump, despite his campaign promises to turn over his businesses and have no involvement with them, has still not fully divested himself of his businesses, and continues to profit from them. You do a good deal for him, he does a good deal for you. Quid pro quo,” said Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush and now a Democratic candidate for Senate in Minnesota. “This appears to be yet another violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution,’” Painter said, referring to the prohibition against the president receiving payments from foreign governments.”
Trump and his wheeler-dealer ilk have long used governmental loopholes to pad their profits. Having the federal government at your disposal to abet your shenanigans increases the take.
The HuffPost article continues: “’This is stunning. They perpetually find new things to surprise me,’ said Robert Weissman, president of the open government advocacy group Public Citizen. ‘The idea of the president intervening in a law enforcement matter to satisfy a foreign government is extraordinary. And it’s extraordinary because it doesn’t happen. Opening that door threatens the integrity of all corporate law enforcement….’” “’The Chinese government seems to have figured out a way to manipulate President Trump,’ Weissman said. ‘It’s exactly why this anti-bribery clause of the Constitution is common sense.’”
And, while this president – who funnels taxpayer money into his resorts nearly every weekend via his pseudo-royal processions – profits from his “tough” Chinese action, we find Jen Hayden of The Daily Kos reporting on May 17: “American farmers are going to be feeling the very real effects of Donald Trump’s ill-advised trade war sooner than later as China begins placing massive soybean orders with other countries.
From Bloomberg: “China, the world’s biggest soybean importer, almost tripled purchases from Russia amid a trade dispute with the U.S., the biggest producer. Russia sold about 850,000 metric tons of soybeans to China from the start of the 12-month season in July through mid-May, according to Russia’s agriculture agency Rosselkhoznadzor. That’s more than during any season before and compares with about 340,000 tons sold during all of the previous period, Chinese customs data show. China has already canceled several shipments from the U.S. in anticipation of tariffs on the country’s products. While Brazil is expected to take much of that market share, Russia is also benefiting.”
“Once again, Donald Trump has taken an action that is directly benefiting Vladimir Putin and the Russian people. Why? Putin’s gamble to boost the Trump campaign and keep Hillary Clinton out of the Oval Office is paying off nicely.”
Over the weekend, China and the U.S. said they would negotiate some more. That does not recoup soybean farmer losses.
So, we see the victors in the Chinese trade war: China, Vladimir Putin and the bank account of Putin’s oligarch apprentice. The losers are Trump-supporting American farmers who have been deemed expendable pawns by their president – and national security, of course, not even collateral damage to the Profiteer-in-Chief.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)