Trump is spinning his China story into America's bogeyman
Much have been said about Donald Trump as the American President over the nearly two and a half years of his administration. Many analysis and studies about his policies, especially those about foreign and trade policies, have been made. Moreover many comments have been made about how some of his policies are foolish and misdirected. In the end, we may be all wrong in all our understanding, analysis and comments about Trump.
Since Trump became President of the United States, China has been unable to fully understand and deal with Trump. At the start of the Trump presidency, China believed that he would eventually adopt the same approach as the previous American Presidents. Unfortunately, Trump continues to remain an unconventional character who seems to be erratic and at times, irrational in his decision making.
However, if we examine Trump's presidential campaign narrative, comments and tweets till today, we'll discover a very simple Trump strategy, which is about him and only him winning at all costs. Period. Any attempt to understand and analyse Trump's actions and policies from a globalist perspective will be simply incorrect and flawed.
Trump was very shrewd to see the nationalist and populist trends within America. To ride on this wave in 2015, Trump and his team crafted his "America First" and "Make America Great Again" campaign strategy. As his slogans imply, his presidency will be about America. His trade wars with the world are about him being portrayed as "saving, fighting and winning" for America. Similarly, his trade war with China is not about solving the trade deficit, but about arousing the nationalist and populist feeling of Americans.
"Any attempt to understand and analyse Trump's actions and policies from a globalist perspective will be simply incorrect and flawed."
In doing so, Trump is definitely not appealing to all Americans. He is mainly targeting his hardcore supporters, who are eagerly listening and following his words, no matter what they are. His political rhetoric via his tweets and other social media platforms is mainly focused on this segment of Americans voters, who feel marginalised, disenfranchised and rejected. They are mainly lower educated middle class Americans, who have been directly or indirectly affected by the decline of American manufacturing and free trade.
Since 2015, Trump has been actively creating a bogeyman out of China by characterising it as the main reason for the manufacturing decline in America, despite the fact that it mainly resulted from American companies delocalising to cheaper locations, China among others, in their quest for bigger profits. Indeed Trump has been quite successful in creating the Chinese bogeyman with bipartisan support for some of his actions against China.
Trump is obviously not about creating coherent economic, foreign and trade policies, that are relevant for the American economy. Everything about what Trump does must be about the optics and its impact on his supporter base.
It does not matter to Trump that his tariffs on Chinese imports are taxing the American consumers, as long as for his hardcore base, Trump looks like the strong American fighter against China. It does not matter to Trump if the soybean farmers are hurting and facing bankruptcy, as long as these American farmers and strong Trump supporters see and perceive that he is combating the Chinese bogeyman to get a "great deal" for them.
As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy. Nevertheless, last December, Chinese President Xi Jinping still agreed to meet up with President Trump, so as to continue on negotiating and make deal. However with the last trade negotiations failing to reach any agreement, the Chinese negotiation team, lead by Vice Premier Liu He, must have felt that they were indeed being played by Trump.
Trump knows that it was not about the truth or facts, but what his hardcore supporters, who are feeling oppressed and left out without a voice, want to see and hear. While the trade negotiations ended in failure for both China and America, Trump is showing to his supporters that he is standing up to China and is spinning his story as China breaking the deal.
At the end of the day, China may have to come to terms that not only tariffs on the next $325 billion of its exports to America may be eventually imposed, but also, Trump may not want to have a real deal with China after all. Moreover, China should by now understand that it is being used by Trump for his own political objectives and for his hardcore supporters.
For Trump, if the trade conflict with China is really resolved, there won't be any Chinese bogeyman to talk about and fight against. With about sixteen months to the next presidential elections, Trump may want to continue on fanning the fire about the Chinese bogeyman story. Like in his previous campaign, his political rhetoric against China may be very useful again to inflame further the nationalist feeling of his supporter base with the aim of winning another mandate.
(published June 2019)