Donald Trump picks China critic to lead new trade council

Peter Navarro has described China as a ‘global pollution factory’ and ‘disease incubator’

An advertisement for a magazine featuring US President-elect Donald Trump on the cover at a news stand in Shanghai. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/Getty Images

The Chinese government is a despicable, parasitic, brutal, brass-knuckled, crass, callous, amoral, ruthless and totally totalitarian imperialist power that reigns over the world’s leading cancer factory, its most prolific propaganda mill and the biggest police state and prison on the face of the earth.

That is the view of Peter Navarro, the man chosen by Donald Trump to lead a new presidential office for US trade and industrial policy, a move likely to add to Beijing's anxieties over the billionaire's plans for US-China relations.

China’s rulers initially appeared to embrace the possibility that improved ties with Washington could be negotiated with the deal-making US president-elect.

“We must welcome him,” said one prominent foreign policy expert.


But that enthusiasm has dimmed after Mr Trump angered Beijing with a succession of controversial interventions on sensitive issues including Taiwan and the South China Sea.

The appointment of Mr Navarro, a University of California, Irvine business professor, to run the White House’s newly created national trade council, represents a further blow to those hopes.

Mr Trump’s team described the 67-year-old academic, who is infamous in China watching circles for being a radical hawk, as “a brilliant policy mind and a tireless worker”.

But Beijing is unlikely to second such emotions.

Mr Navarro has penned a number of vociferously anti-China tomes including Death by China and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World.

In The Coming China Wars – a 2006 book that Mr Trump has called one of his favourite on China – Mr Navarro portrays the Asian country as a nightmarish realm where "the raw stench of a gut-wrenching, sweat-stained fear" hangs in the air and myopic, venal and incompetent Communist party officials rule the roost.

The Harvard-educated hardliner accuses “cheating China” of destroying both American factories and lives by flooding the US with illegally subsidised and “contaminated, defective and cancerous” exports.

American politicians must “aggressively and comprehensively address the China problem” before it leads to full-blown conflict, Mr Navarro writes.

In a 2012 Netflix documentary based on Death by China, which Mr Trump has described as "right on", Mr Navarro blames Beijing for the loss of 57,000 American factories and 25 million jobs.

“The repressive communist government [IS]now victimising both American and Chinese citizens alike,” the film claims.

‘Raping our country’

“Help defend America and protect your family: don’t buy made in China,” Mr Navarro tells viewers in an introduction to the 80-minute polemic, which is narrated by Martin Sheen.

Mr Navarro, who has also dubbed China a “global pollution factory” and “disease incubator”, made no secret of his distaste for its rulers during Mr Trump’s election campaign.

Speaking to the Guardian in July at a resort near his home in Laguna Beach the academic railed against how China’s “brutal, authoritarian communist government” had decimated the US economy.

He painted China as a ravenous bully and said he agreed with Trump’s claim that Beijing was guilty of “raping our country” over trade.

“It’s an apt description of the damage and carnage that China’s trade policies have wrought on the American economic heartland. What’s happening is rapacious,” Mr Navarro said.

While Mr Trump in a statement praised the “clarity” of Mr Navarro’s arguments and the “thoroughness of his research,” few other economists have endorsed Mr Navarro’s ideas.

Marcus Noland, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, likened a tax and trade paper authored by Mr Navarro and Wilbur Ross, who has been named as Mr Trump’s commerce secretary, to “the type of magical thinking best reserved for fictional realities” for what he said was its flawed economic analysis.

‘Don’t poke the panda’

Mr Navarro has also suggested a stepped-up engagement with Taiwan, including assistance with a submarine development programme.

He argued that Washington should stop referring to the "one China" policy, but stopped short of suggesting it should recognise Taipei, saying: "There is no need to unnecessarily poke the panda."

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in an interview carried on Thursday in the Communist Party of China’s official newspaper that China-US relations face new uncertainties but with mutual respect for core interests they will remain stable.

"Only if China and the United States respect each other and give consideration to other's core interests and key concerns can there be long-term, stable cooperation, and effect win-win mutual benefit," Mr Wang said.

The Guardian and Reuters