Only time will tell who prevails in this sparring between China lobbyists and China hawks but it is certain that the outcome will shape America’s foreign policy vis-a-vis China for decades to come.
Stephen Kevin “Steve” Bannon, a former banker who is currently serving as assistant to the President and White House Chief Strategist, has earned a reputation of driving the far-right agenda in the Donald Trump administration. In his White House office, Bannon has written down on a white board all the promises Trump made during the presidential campaign last year and is committed to making Trump fulfill these promises, which are obviously very important to the US President’s support base.
However, recently, there were reports in the media that Bannon had fallen out of favour with Trump and his inner circle which includes daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Things turned acrimonious especially after Time magazine featured Bannon on cover in February with the title “The Great Manipulator”. The perception was growing that “off the charts brilliant” Bannon was pulling the strings from behind while Trump was merely a mask. Soon after, Bannon went underground and has kept a low profile since then to avoid coming into limelight and stealing his boss’ thunder.
It now appears that Bannon is willing to resurface again. In an interview to a progressive media outlet, he revealed the fine print of his China Containment strategy.
We’re at economic war with China. It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path.
Bannon said that the US has five to 10 years to contain China after which it will become a hegemon and impossible to challenge.
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, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.
Bannon’s strategy of fighting the economic war against China involves lodging complaints against China at international trade forums. “A complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping,” writes Robert Kuttner of American Prospect who interviewed Bannon.
Surprisingly, and unlike his boss, Bannon doesn’t believe there is a military solution to the North Korea problem. More importantly, he realises, unlike very few people in the American establishment, that China is using North Korea to create problems for the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan.
There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.
By “they”, he is obviously referring to China.
Bannon says that President Trump is completely on board on his China containment strategy but the task is far from easy as he has to fight internal battles daily with officials in treasury department, National Economic Council who don’t want to upset the trade apple cart.
I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State. That’s a fight I fight every day here. We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.
Whether Bannon is on the ropes or not, we will soon find out because a big shakeup of White House staff is expected anytime now. Only time will tell who prevails in this sparring between China lobbyists and China hawks but it is certain that the outcome will shape America’s foreign policy vis-a-vis China for decades to come.