On August 18, the White House announced that Stephen K. Bannon, U.S President Donald Trump’s chief political strategist, is leaving his post. Two days earlier, Bannon’s remarks that the U.S. is “at economic war with China” had led to backlash in China.
On August 16, The American Prospect published an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Bannon. In the interview, Bannon repeatedly mentioned China and claimed that the U.S. should take a harder line with Beijing. Some of his remarks about China were particularly sensational:
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… 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 described “his battle” inside the Trump administration “to take a harder line on China trade.” He didn’t mention in what literature China talks about economic war with the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Bannon’s remarks immediately caught China’s attention and led to backlash.
On August 17, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made a lengthy comment in which the “relevant person” alluded to was most certainly Bannon:
I would like to stress that, just as the Chinese side stated many times, the economic relations and trade between China and the US are mutually beneficial in essence. In fact, the long-term economic and trade cooperation between the China and the US have brought tangible benefits to the two peoples, which is an undeniable fact in the eyes of any unbiased person. A trade war does not serve the interests of any party, as fighting a trade war will not produce a winner. We hope that the relevant persons can stop perceive an issue of the 21 century with the zero-sum mentality of the 19th or 20th century.
Now — one day after Hua’s reply — Bannon has been fired from his position. Although Bannon certainly didn’t lose his post because of his aggression toward China, China is for sure among those who sincerely welcome the exit.