As conservatives may be aware, former White House Chief Strategist and current Breitbart Executive Chairman Steve Bannon has sounded the alarm regarding America’s most dangerous long-term economic and trade adversary: China.
In a wide-ranging interview given just after he left the White House, Bannon had this to say about the issues being imposed by the People’s Republic: “To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away — I think, ten years at the most — from hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover… We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war, and they’re crushing us.”
In another interview, with Bloomberg Businessweek, Bannon elaborated,
If we don’t get our situation sorted with China, we’ll be destroyed economically. The forced technology transfer of American innovation to China is the single biggest economic and business issue of our time. Until we sort that out, they will continue to appropriate our innovation to their own system and leave us as a colony — our Jamestown to their Great Britain — a tributary state… There have been 4,000 years of Chinese diplomatic history, all centered on ‘barbarian management,’ minus the last 150 years… It’s always about making the barbarians a tributary state. Our tribute to China is our technology — that’s what it takes to enter their market, and [they’ve taken] $3.5 trillion worth over the last 10 years. We have to give them the basic essence of American capitalism: our innovation.”
Although Bannon knows a lot about China, there’s another man who knows many times as much about the country — perhaps more than any single person who’s worked in the highest levels of government — Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor (two posts he held simultaneously for a time) under former Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Although Kissinger is quite the elder statesman at 94 years old, he’s still an active world traveler and consultant, logging international miles and giving speeches in Europe and Asia. He’s visited China over 80 times and helped arrange the “secret meetings” President Nixon had with Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971.
These meetings considerably warmed U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations and were a key step in opening Communist China to Western international relations and trade, the latter of which has multiplied by a factor of millions in the intervening years. This year, when President Trump met with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, the richest man in Asia, the seeds for that meeting and its potentially fruitful outcomes were sown in many ways back in the early 70s with Nixon’s overtures to Mao and Zhou.
However, as China has grown by leaps and bounds economically, it’s also begun to become a worrying force as far as the global balance of power. Currently, it’s one of the world’s nine nuclear powers and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
China has vastly expanded its military and boasts at least one overseas military base — in Djibouti, Africa — as well as new claims on territories in the South China Sea. In pushing its boundaries and flexing its military muscles, China has rubbed up against the world’s number one military power, the United States, and there are analysts that have said that the two countries are at greater and greater risk of engaging in military conflict.
Certainly, at least from a trading perspective, the lopsided trade deficit the U.S. has with China and weakness America has from a competitive standpoint have put the United States in a tough position from many angles.
It hasn’t helped that the U.S. has either overtly given technology and intellectual property to China or that China has taken it on occasion, both via legal and illegal means. China is now planning a new global trade initiative informally called “One Belt and One Road” that will be a China-centered network for trade to and from Eurasian countries.
In a speech at Columbia University, Dr. Kissinger recently remarked, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in seeking to connect China to Central Asia and eventually to Europe will have the practical significance of shifting the world’s center of gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific and will involve the cultures of Eurasia, each of whom will have to decide what relationship to this region they will see, and so will the United States.”
“It’s said by many scholars that never before has a power grown in one region as China is doing and that its interaction will lead to tensions and maybe even war. We do not have this choice. That would be a road to disaster and would do to the world what World War II did to Europe.”
Now, Bannon and Kissinger have met twice at Kissinger’s home in Connecticut and are planning a project to alert the Trump administration and the public to the true danger that China represents.
Both men are aware that a cordial and fair relationship between both countries is essential for maintaining peace in Asia and throughout the world. The ongoing crisis with North Korea has tested the Trump administration’s relations with China as only China is really capable of restraining North Korea from a trade and economic perspective.
Thus, China likely serves as the only real leverage the U.S. may be able to apply to force a halt to the rapidly advancing North Korean weapons program. Of course, using carrots and sticks with China comes with its own risks, and it’s a near certainty that Bannon — and especially Kissinger — are well aware of what the repercussions are of asking favors from the Middle Kingdom.
While the specifics of what Bannon and Kissinger are planning aren’t known, it’s acknowledged that Bannon recently made a trip to Hong Kong in September to give a speech at an investor conference sponsored by a Chinese investment bank. “I chose Hong Kong,” Bannon said, “because the heart of the economic-nationalist movement is standing up to China.”
While in the former British Crown colony, which is now considered a special economic zone within China, Bannon met with Wang Qishan, the member of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption task force and a senior leader in the Chinese Politburo. It’s also known that Bannon had discussions with President Trump while he was staying in the Chinese megalopolis.
It’s worth noting that Dr. Kissinger met with Wang, also, just after President Trump was elected; it’s thought that the Chinese have attempted to use both Kissinger and Bannon to informally communicate with the Trump administration.
Over the summer, Bannon encouraged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open an investigation into the Chinese theft of intellectual property under Section 301 of 1974’s Trade Act, pending the imposition of higher tariffs favored by the Trump administration.
“The sheer scale of their coordinated effort to develop their economy, to subsidize, to create national champions, to force technology transfers and to distort markets in China and throughout the world is a threat to the world trading system that’s unprecedented,” stated Lighthizer.
Still, action on North Korea and other matters may stay Trump’s hand on tariffs or other measures for now. From a Chinese perspective, this may be part and parcel of their economic strategy — to essentially use North Korea to simultaneously play “good cop” and “bad cop” with the United States and effectively stall for time while they enact their Road and Belt initiative.
Currently, President Trump is scheduled to travel to Beijing next month.
In the meantime, Bannon says that his Breitbart News is planning a series of global security conferences, for Asia, Central Europe and the Persian Gulf starting in 2018. Bannon is continuing to hammer home the message that taking a hardline stance on China is essential for Republican Congressional candidates that want Bannon’s and Breitbart’s endorsements as economic nationalists. “Every day we’re going to be making China a huge part of the ’18 and ’20 elections,” Bannon says.
States Derek Scissors, a specialist on China at the American Enterprise Institute, “The current direction of U.S. politics is headed toward populism, isolationism and bashing China for good reasons or bad. If I were Goldman Sachs or another big bank looking to defend my deal pipeline, I would be worried.”