By Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
“NOBODY has been tougher on China than me,” President Donald Trump has declared repeatedly, and he is trying to exploit anti-China feelings for his re-election. He portrays Joe Biden as soft on China, and his backers have run ads denouncing “Beijing Biden.”
All that is preposterous, for it is Trump who has been China’s stooge, a sycophantic flatterer and enabler of President Xi Jinping. If that wasn’t already evident, John Bolton’s new book, The Room Where It Happened, portrays Trump as practically kowtowing to Xi.
The kowtow meant prostrating oneself before the emperor or a patriarch and knocking one’s head on the ground. Today it takes the form of a fawning American president publicly declaring, “President Xi loves the people of China” and hailing Xi’s “very capable” handling of the coronavirus.
I’ve been gasping as I read an advance copy of Bolton’s book, particularly his chapter on relations with China, because China policy perfectly captures Trump’s soaring hypocrisy wrapped in venal incompetence.
The passage in the book that got the most attention concerns a telephone conversation between Trump and Xi last year.
“He [Trump] then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes.
The government clearance process redacted Trump’s exact words, but Vanity Fair says he told Xi, “Make sure I win.”
Yet perhaps what troubles me even more is Trump’s kowtowing to China’s human rights abuses to win favor with Xi.
“On June 4, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Trump refused to issue a White House statement,” Bolton writes, quoting Trump as saying, “Who cares about it?”
Xi has imprisoned some 1 million Muslims in modern concentration camps in the Xinjiang region, in what may be the largest internment of people based on religious categories since the Holocaust.
“Xi explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang,” Bolton writes. “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
Trump has also largely abandoned two Canadian citizens whom China has imprisoned as hostages to try to prevent Canada from extraditing a prominent businesswoman, Meng Wanzhou, to the United States. The United States should stand with Canada to end such hostage-taking; instead, Trump has validated it by suggesting that he can interfere with the legal process to solve problems.
Trump has denied making some of these comments, but then again Trump has made more than 19,000 false or misleading statements since assuming the presidency, by the count of The Washington Post. Moreover, the White House’s main objection to Bolton’s book is that it publishes classified information — and statements are considered classified only if they are true. The White House thus provides backdoor confirmation of the book’s general truthfulness.
It has always been ludicrous for the Trump campaign to denounce “Beijing Biden,” when Trump publicly lavishes more affection on Xi than on Melania. “President Xi is extremely capable,” is “strong, sharp and powerfully focused,” is “doing a very good job” and is “a man who truly loves his country,” Trump has said on various occasions this year alone.
My own view as a China-watcher who lived for years in Beijing is that we should stand up to Xi where we need to — while also negotiating on trade and seeking ways to cooperate on climate change, pandemics and more. Trump does the opposite: He bungles trade and achieves nothing there, fails to cooperate on climate or health, damages America’s alliances and ignores Xi’s worst abuses, all while flattering Xi in apparent hopes of getting re-election help.
A joke in China suggests that Trump’s Chinese name is Chuan Jianguo, or “Build-the-Country Trump.” That’s because Build-the-Country is a common revolutionary name among Communist patriots, and it’s mockingly suggested that Trump’s misrule of the United States is actually bolstering Xi’s regime.
In other words, Trump seems to be doing his utmost to make a country great again. It’s just not America.
More proof that I have the best readers.
In April I used my column to announce an effort to raise funds for five great organizations working at home and abroad to respond to the coronavirus, and my readers have now donated a total of $5.8 million to the effort.
Here’s how the 10,200 donors have allocated the money: $1.67 million to Catalyst Kitchens, which provides meals for the hungry in the United States; $1.38 million to the Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins University, which supports the virus response in Native American communities in the United States; $1.1 million to Water for People, which installs water systems at schools and clinics abroad so people can wash their hands; $826,000 to the International Rescue Committee, supporting displaced people around the world; and $788,000 to Save the Children, helping out-of-school kids here in the United States.
And if you haven’t donated yet, you still can at KristofC19ImpactInitiative.org. — Nicholas Kristof © 2020 The New York Times