At the very least, President Donald Trump’s unexpected change of tone, regarding Chinese tech firm, ZTE, is enough to raise a few eyebrows from those who actually took him seriously, every time he railed against China for unfair trade practices.
And while no one but his most loyal defenders felt a trade war with China was a good idea for our nation’s well-being, his change of mood on that front has to mean there’s another shoe about to fall, somewhere.
Initially, there was a ban on selling parts to ZTE, because of illegal shipments being made to North Korea and Iran.
Now, the turnaround is being touted as paving the way for bigger, better things.
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources, that the reprieve for ZTE was being negotiated as part of a possible deal in which China would lift tariffs on certain US agricultural products, such as ginseng, that went into effect in April.
Trump knew what he was doing was hurting farmers, to begin with, but in April he said they (American farmers) would “understand,” indicating that they’d be willing to endure any economic troubles because of his trade war.
On Monday, he explained his “evolving” position.
He tweeted: “ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi”.
But you had that relationship before, so why now?
There are other problems with ZTE, besides their shipments to Iran and North Korea, in spite of international sanctions against those nations.
The United States intelligence community have labeled ZTE, along with another Chinese cell phone maker, Huawei, an espionage threat. Both companies are tightly linked to the Chinese government. Officials from the FBI, CIA, and NSA have all cited concerns.
This isn’t even a new discovery. Those concerns pre-date Trump, going back as far as 2012.
So what’s with President Trump’s sudden desire to make nice with China, a nation he routinely scourged in the run up to the 2016 election, for their unfair trade practices?
As it tends to be with Trump, whenever there’s a sudden flip, you simply scratch the surface of the issue, and underneath, you’ll find something that benefits him, personally.
It only took a single day after Trump’s announced about-face, regarding ZTE that news emerged of a sizable loan from the Chinese government to a state-owned construction company that will be building a theme park in Indonesia, complete with a Trump-branded hotel and golf course.
The project will include a number of Trump-branded hotels, a golf course, and a residence. While the $500 million loan will not be directly allocated to any of the Trump-branded features, Beijing’s contribution of half the project’s total operating budget ensures the success of the broader theme-park venture.
The Trump properties are considered flagship elements of the theme park, according to MNC marketing materials, and internal documents obtained by Agency France-Presse show Trump’s sons have been directly involved in its planning.
MNC Land is the Indonesian firm working with China’s state-run Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) on the construction of the project.
To be clear, negotiations began before the 2016 election, but that doesn’t wash the stink off of this one.
Trump’s refusal before taking office to divest himself from his businesses holdings has set him up as a focal point for every manner of ethical scrutiny.
In fact, while the world is wondering about how indebted to Moscow Trump may be, some would argue that Beijing may be just as big of a concern. Maybe more so.
“Even if this deal is completely and entirely above board, it simply furthers the perception of impropriety” surrounding Trump’s business dealings, Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School, told AFP. “Especially with the potential trade war, this is not a good look….Critics will be entirely right to demand answers.”
They absolutely will, under the circumstances.
You can chalk it up to his inexperience in government (other than a long history of donations to liberal politicians), or to his history of corrupt, dirty, backroom dealings (an equally likely scenario). Most likely, this is a combination of both.
There are to be further negotiations over trade between the U.S. and China this week, when China’s top economics official, Vice Premier Liu He, arrives in Washington for talks.
With Trump’s superior negotiating skills, maybe we all should start brushing up on our Chinese. There’s a better than fair chance he’ll give away half the nation, in exchange for having a Chinese rest stop bathroom named after him.