Monday, September 30, 2019
Six months ago, the Chinese walked away from the trade negotiations.
The move caught nearly everyone by surprise.
After all, the talks had been going on, with increasing intensity, almost since President Trump took office. And they had made significant progress by early 2019.
By March the draft trade agreement had reached an impressive 150 single-spaced pages. In it, the Communist regime promised to abandon many of its predatory practices, from currency manipulation and the theft of intellectual property to the forced transfer of technology and its secret subsidies to its hi-tech companies.
Beijing even appeared ready to back these promised structural changes by agreeing to actual enforcement provisions similar to those imposed on North Korea. The draft called for heavy penalties to be imposed on Chinese companies, or levied on China itself, if the agreement was violated.
The cable that arrived in Washington late on Friday, May 3, changed everything. The draft agreement had been gutted. Section after section had been crossed out. Americans who saw it said that Beijing was reneging on nearly all the concessions it had made earlier.
Had China’s trade negotiators been acting in bad faith all along?
Perhaps. After all, Beijing has a long history of duplicitous behavior.
But I think the real reason that China backtracked is named “Joe Biden.” The former vice president had just ended months of speculation over his political future by announcing he was running for president on April 25.
The Chinese blew up the negotiations a few days later.
They had decided to run out the clock on President Trump’s first term, convinced that they would get a much better deal from a future President Biden.
Who can blame them? Biden has a long history of being a friendly voice for US-China relations. The Chinese side had every reason to expect that Biden, like Obama, would turn a blind eye to the theft of American jobs, factories, and intellectual property by an increasingly arrogant and rapacious PRC.
They probably even hoped that he, in return for a few empty promises, would quickly set aside the Trump tariffs that were crippling the Chinese economy.
But Beijing had another reason to bet on Biden: they had given sweetheart deals to his son, Hunter Biden.
As Peter Schweizer has documented in his book, “Secret Empires,” the vice president took his son along on Air Force Two when he flew to Beijing in December 2013.
Not long after the father and son duo returned to the US, Hunter Biden’s small firm received a $1 billion private equity deal from the Chinese government. This was later increased to a cool one-and-a-half billion.
As Schweizer wrote, “The Chinese government was literally funding a business that it co-owned along with the sons of two of America’s most powerful decision-makers.”
Now you see why Beijing’s leaders were convinced that they had Joe Biden in their pocket — or at least in their pocketbook.
At the time, the former vice president seemed like a sure bet — not just to Beijing but to many on this side of the Pacific. The early polls suggested that he was a shoo-in for the Democrat nomination, and the odds-on favorite to beat Trump.
Betting the farm on Biden, the Chinese likely stiffed Trump’s negotiators.
Now they seem to be having second thoughts. Negotiators are crisscrossing the Pacific again, and the Chinese have placed a couple of big orders for farm products.
Are they hedging their bet on Biden, or simply biding their time until they get the election result they want?
Time will tell.
Meanwhile, this being Trump, there is a price to pay for such perfidy. The tariffs are a little higher now and the terms of any future agreement will be even tougher.
Vice President Mike Pence did not mince words on Thursday when he said that the US will continue to insist that China make significant reforms to its economic system, including abandoning trade barriers, forced technology transfers and predatory subsidies for “national champion” businesses.
And Trump himself has made clear that, if no agreement is reached by the time of the 2020 election, Beijing will have an even steeper hill to climb during his second term.
Steven W. Mosher is the president of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s ’Dream’ is the New Threat to World Order.”
By Fred Fleitz
Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He remarks on the whistleblower complaint.
I am troubled by the complaint and wonder how an intelligence officer could file it over something a president said to a foreign leader. How could this be an intelligence matter?
It appears likely to me that this so-called whistleblower was pursuing a political agenda.
I am very familiar with transcripts of presidential phone calls since I edited and processed dozens of them when I worked for the NSC. I also know a lot about intelligence whistleblowers from my time with the CIA.
My suspicions grew this morning when I saw the declassified whistleblowing complaint. It appears to be written by a law professor and includes legal references and detailed footnotes. It also has an unusual legalistic reference on how this complaint should be classified.
From my experience, such an extremely polished whistleblowing complaint is unheard of. This document looks as if this leaker had outside help, possibly from congressional members or staff.
Moreover, it looks like more than a coincidence that this complaint surfaced and was directed to the House Intelligence Committee just after Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), an outspoken opponent of President Trump, expressed numerous complaints in August 2019 accusing President Trump of abusing aid to Ukraine to hurt Joe Biden. This includes an August 28 tweet that closely resembled the whistleblowing complaint.
House Republicans need to ask the whistleblower under oath whether he spoke to the press or Congress about his complaint.
Also very concerning to me is how the complaint indicates intelligence officers and possibly other federal employees are violating the rules governing presidential phone calls with foreign leaders.
The content and transcripts of these calls are highly restricted. The whistleblower makes clear in his complaint that he did not listen to a call in question, nor did he read the transcript — he was told about the call by others. If true, intelligence officers have grossly violated the rules as well as the trust placed on them to protect this sensitive information.
I refuse to believe that the leaking, timing and presentation of this complaint is coincidence. I don’t think the American people will buy this either.
I’m more worried, however, that this latest instance of blatant politicization of intelligence by Trump haters will do long term damage to the relationship between the intelligence community and US presidents for many years to come.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
You know that game people sometimes play? The one where you choose which superpower you’d want?
Sometimes the choices are limited, such as in this typical group: “Telepathy, teleportation, super-strength, invisibility or the ability to regenerate your cells.”
But I’ve never seen a list that includes the one Donald Trump seems to possess, which is the ability to drive your enemies crazy and make them do stupid things.
We first saw this in evidence, at least somewhat, during the 2016 campaign. The Republican challengers were surprisingly flat-footed against him. And since his election we’ve seen it over and over and over with Democrats, the press, and NeverTrumpers.
I think what’s going on is twofold. The first is that Trump is very very different from their usual opponents. He’s unpredictable. He hits below the belt and above the belt. Whatever he does, they don’t see it coming.
But the second is that they really truly are convinced that he is the crazy stupid one. Therefore, if they can just rile him enough, he’ll reveal this unequivocally to the world. Plus, he’s not just crazy and stupid, he’s also corrupt, and so – like the boy in the joke about shoveling manure in the barn because he knows there must be a pony somewhere – they know that if they just dig and dig and dig they will find the pony that will sink Trump. This is not a pose on their part; they believe it.