There’s no denying that earlier this spring, around the time that President Trump first signaled in an improvised weekend tweet that he would raise tariffs on Chinese goods because he had lost patience with Beijing, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon started expounding his hawkish views on China during an extended media tour. He did interviews or published op-eds with the Washington Post, Fox, CNBC – even the South China Morning Post.
His argument was simple: the US and China are not engaging in trade war, but rather battling for world domination, an argument made first last year by none other than Bank of America’s CIO Michael Hartnett, who said last May that “the first stage of a new arms race between the US & China to reach national superiority in technology over the longer-term via Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Hypersonic Warplanes, Electronic Vehicles, Robotics, and Cyber-Security.”
Of course, Beijing wants its ‘slave’ system of totalitarian communism to define a new world order, while Washington must do everything in its power to preserve good ol’ fashioned American democracy and the American-led world order.
Meanwhile, the China First strategy will be met head-on by an America First strategy. Hence the “arms race” in tech spending which in both countries is intimately linked with defense spending. Note military spending by the US and China is forecast by the IMF to rise substantially in coming decades, but the stunner is that by 2050, China is set to overtake the US, spending $4tn on its military while the US is $1 trillion less, or $3tn.
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This means that some time around 2038, roughly two decades from now, China will surpass the US in military spending, and become the world’s dominant superpower not only in population and economic growth – China is set to overtake the US economy by no later than 2032 – but in military strength and global influence as well.
As a result, China must be stopped well before it crosses that point.
But despite joining the WTO and promising to be more transparent and open, Bannon argued, Beijing continued to accept the generous trade terms offered but rarely reciprocated. It maintained a tight control over its financial markets and FDI. Meanwhile, it used ‘debt diplomacy’ to build out the Belt and Road Initiative, the world’s greatest ‘neocolonialist project’.
Well, Bannon hasn’t been quite as active lately, though it is clear that he’s thrilled the president ultimately decided to embrace his position on China. Which is why the Global Times, the Communist Party’s nationalist mouthpiece, has run an editorial attacking Bannon, something that he also probably finds exceedingly thrilling.
The op-ed begins with President Trump’s infamous tweet bashing Bannon, calling him “Sloppy Steve” and accusing him of being a “leaker.”
Then goes on to accuse Bannon of doubling down on his “hysterical right-wing opinions,” “vilifying” China to any journalist who would listen.
It is hard to believe that this “dumped dog” was one of Trump’s “best pupils” during his election campaign. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, also Trump’s former campaign chief who spread Trump’s anti-immigrant and nationalist calls leading up to the US general election, has now made attacking China his new business after being dumped by Trump.
In 2019, Bannon intensified his assault on China with even more hysterical right-wing opinions.
Steve Bannon told the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, that the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump banning Huawei from the US market and cutting off vital components is “10 times more important than walking away from the trade deal.”
Ultimately, the GT accused Bannon of masterminding what it called “China threat theory”, and has used his influence within the West Wing, which lingers on through his loyalists and even his continuing relationship with President Trump, to vilify Beijing and encourage Washington to take a hard tack in the trade war.
On May 6, he published an article in the Washington Post vilifying and inciting his country to confront China.
“Steve Bannon has now added a new project to his portfolio – one designed, like all Bannon projects, to harness the worst in a situation to make it even worse. Lately, he has been focusing on an adversary that troubles those on both the left and right: China. But Bannon’s aim is hardly to reduce tensions between the US and China; he means to ratchet up the trade war,” according to the American Prospect, an American political and public policy magazine.
The “China threat theory” has fermented rapidly in the Trump era, and this can be partly attributed to the profound influence Steve Bannon had on the US president. Although Bannon left the White House in 2017, there are no fundamental differences between Bannon and Trump in terms of governance philosophy and China policy, and he still has access to the White House to influence its China policy decisions, said Chinese experts.
The GT also accused Bannon of ‘malicious smears’ by asserting that Beijing has been waging “economic war” against all Western democracies.
Bannon maliciously smeared China by saying that it is a “rapidly militarizing totalitarian state imprisoning millions in work camps,” and “the world is a house divided, half slave, half free.” Washington and Beijing are “facing off to tip the scales in one direction or the other,” he wrote.
Bannon focused his fire just at a time when pressure is growing on China-US relations. But how can Bannon stir up a new wave of anti-China rhetoric in Washington after being kicked out of the White House? It could be because his personnel deployment strategy in the White House is still working.
Finally, the op-ed accused Bannon of organizing the debate between Liu Xin of China Global Television Network and Trish Regan of the Fox Business Network, and leveraging his many media contacts to give critical interviews on China, most of which involving encouraging the American people to support Trump in his trade war with China, no matter the personal stakes.
It also accused him of creating an “anti-China” clique.
In addition to keeping a close eye on China issues in Fox News, Bannon is personally close to a number of hosts, regularly meeting with them, relentlessly promoting the “China threat” and using the media megaphone to get his voice heard.
Bannon has also worked with other hawks to create an Anti-China clique. The latest example came in March, when Bannon colluded with other Washington policy advisers to establish the Committee on the Present Danger, which targets China.
It aims to facilitate “public education and advocacy against the full array of conventional and non-conventional dangers” posed by China, according to an announcement the group released. The committee is widely believed to be fueling bilateral tensions between the two countries.
But with the Trump Administration already backpedaling by delaying tariffs that would send inflation soaring, the question is why is Beijing picking now to go after Bannon? Perhaps it intended to communicate that while Bannon’s not a priority deserving of a swift rebuttal (like, say, Mike Pompeo or John Bolton), Beijing doesn’t forget an unkind word. That, or it realizes that despite Bannon has been cast away from the close circle of Trump advisors – at least for public consumption – Bannon is still the main puppetmaster in the White House.