A couple of quotes from Steve Bannon in Michael Wolff’s upcoming book Fire and Fury have gotten quite a bit of attention recently. The headlines are all about Bannon calling Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russian lawyers “treasonous” and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick”. These quotes drew a response from the President himself.
But those aren’t the significant Bannon quotes from this book. No; the most interesting Bannon-ism is this, from a dinner he attended shortly after the election with Roger Ailes, the disgraced former Fox News CEO:
“China’s everything. Nothing else matters. We don’t get China right, we don’t get anything right. This whole thing is very simple. China is where Nazi Germany was in 1929 to 1930. The Chinese, like the Germans, are the most rational people in the world, until they’re not. And they’re gonna flip like Germany in the 30s. You’re going to have a hypernationalist state, and once that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”
Hey, you guys! It turns out we had Bannon all wrong. We thought he was a Nazi, but actually he’s trying to prevent the rise of the new Nazis! He’s like Severus Snape!
Kidding aside, if this is true, it means Bannon sees China as the most significant threat to the United States, and indeed the world.
Which is weird, because throughout Trump’s first year in office (for the majority of which Bannon was a key advisor) his administration has been consistently letting China get what it wants.
On the campaign trail, Trump talked a big game about punishing China for currency manipulation. Then he met Chinese President Xi at Mar-A-Lago and they had some delicious cake and all of a sudden that became water under the bridge.
Remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership? The one Trump withdrew the United States from? Well, that withdrawal allowed China to further increase its economic power in Asia.
I’m not saying the TPP was necessarily a good idea, but by its withdrawal, the US has clearly served the interest of Chinas ruling elite. And what did Bannon have to say about it, when Trump withdrew from it mere days into his Presidency?
Or how about Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement? By doing so, it allowed China to take the lead in new energy technology, and cleaning up their polluted cities.
In other words, Trump effectively set the stage for the US and China to swap roles, with the US now being the heavily-polluted manufacturing country with older technology and lower regulatory standards, and China being the high-tech, clean, white-collar nation.
How did old Bannon feel about that?
”As Trump prepared to take the podium, chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, the man credited with keeping Trump on a path to Paris withdrawal, stood in the shade with a coterie of senior staff, surveying the scene. For Bannon, the United States exit from the deal wasn’t just a policy victory, it was personal vindication.”
What is up with this? If Bannon thinks he needs to curb China’s increasing geopolitical power, he has a funny way of doing it. All these major policy decisions that Trump made at Bannon’s urging have benefited China.
Bannon may think the President’s daughter is dumb as a brick, but at first glance, his approach to fighting rival superpowers rather resembles the work of someone with block-like intelligence.
Is Bannon secretly a double agent for China, pretending to be super anti-China as a cover? Is he just a buffoon who has no idea how Foreign Policy works? Or is he some 13-dimensional-chess-playing mastermind who knows something everybody else doesn’t, and thinks that whoever has the least influence in Asia will somehow dominate the globe?