Is Trump a Chinese mole?

The WaPo is reporting that Vietnam is moving toward a pro-China position, out of desperation:

Vietnam’s fierce rivalry with China often exceeds any lingering resentment against the United States, which is now seen as a crucial counterweight to Beijing’s ambitions.

Yet the suspending of the Repsol drilling project has provided wary Vietnamese with a reason to believe their government is capitulating behind the scenes. Neither the Spanish company nor the Vietnamese government has offered an explanation for suspending offshore activities.

“There are so many rumors swirling around Repsol, as there always are when it comes to China and Vietnam. But there doesn’t appear to be any reason to do what they did other than pressure from Beijing,” said a prominent member of the international business community who frequently interacts with officials representing the three countries involved, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to publicly speak about political matters.

If Vietnam did privately back down, he said, it has not been left with much choice since President Trump took office. “The U.S. really left Vietnam at the altar when it canceled TPP. What are they supposed to do?” he asked, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal that included Vietnam and explicitly excluded China. Trump had slammed the deal as a job-killer during the presidential campaign, and he withdrew from the pact just days after taking office.

At least we have a reliable ally in South Korea.  But for how much longer?  Here’s the Guardian:

Donald Trump has asked aides to prepare for US withdrawal from a free trade agreement with South Korea, it was reported on Saturday – a potentially stunning development at a time of tense confrontation with North Korea.

. . .

The decision is not final yet, and several leading members of the Trump administration are seeking to dissuade the president, according to the Washington Post, but the report added “the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this coming week.”

Withdrawal from the 2007 trade deal (known as Korus) with one of Washington’s closest allies in Asia would be only the latest of a series of zig-zagging interventions by Trump amid the looming nuclear missile crisis that have caused bewilderment and alarm in the region.

.  .  .  withdrawal would be in line with campaign promises to tear up trade deals Trump has presented as disadvantageous to US workers. He has already ruled out joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) . . .  as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe, and he is threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm, said that if Trump went ahead and withdrew from the agreement, “it would be a significant loss of US influence in Asia – nearly on par with withdrawal from the TPP”. . . .

“China would be the big winner, with [South] Korean president Moon [Jae-in] harder pressed to maintain present levels of security cooperation with the United States. If China is your key economic partner, there’s a lot less reason to listen to Washington.”

Putin’s gamble backfired.  Once it became clear that the Russians tried to influence the election, Congress turned against the Kremlin. The sanctions will stay in place.   China’s turned out to be the big winner from Trump’s stupidity.  Steve Bannon also looks like a fool, as the Trump/Bannon policy regime is delivering exactly the sort of Chinese hegemony that Bannon warned us about.

PS.  Perhaps Trump will put tariffs on Chinese steel, thereby assuring that Chinese manufacturers have a cost advantage over American companies that rely on our high priced steel.  Or maybe he’ll start a war with N. Korea.  The possibilities are endless when you are dealing with a mentally unstable president.



39 Responses to “Is Trump a Chinese mole?”

  1. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    4. September 2017 at 20:25

    There’s nothing mentally unstable about the President. Nobody’s starting a war with North Korea. This line is total BS:

    Once it became clear that the Russians tried to influence the election, Congress turned against the Kremlin.

    It never became clear “the Russians” tried to influence the election, and trying to influence an election never turns a country against someone. Rather, Congress was always idiotically and vehemently anti-Iranian and anti-Russian.

    It’s very clear Russia has lost under the Trump administration; it’s not clear if China has won anything, but it hasn’t lost anywhere near as much as Russia.

  2. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    4. September 2017 at 20:54

    We’ve had vicious kings and we’ve had idiot kings, but l don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king.
    Good thing we don’t have kings… (To be fair, current not-king confines his viciousness mostly to petty matters)

  3. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    5. September 2017 at 04:20

    The Senate needs to assert issue itself on trade. A President shouldn’t be allowed to cancel trade treaties on his own.

  4. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    5. September 2017 at 07:01

    This is a good post, but egads, China President Xi Jinping makes Don Trump look like a creampuff.

    Xi not only wiped out what little free press or speech existed in China, but rules that the press (and all aspects of the internet) are but mouthpieces of the China Communist Party.

    Xi has severely abbreviated legal rights, not that there was much to start with.

    CCP monitoring groups are being formed inside of nearly every large business in China, to complement extant CCP control over board seats (the board control is rarely mentioned in the West).

    Xi’s imperialism in the China Sea is nearly naked. The Hanification of Tibet is awful. (In general, Hans do not look on Tibetans or SE Asians as equals).

    In contrast, I doubt Trump could find the China Sea on a map…of the Pacific Ocean. I think it can be fairly said that Trump has no equal.

    There may be a larger lesson here: A national leader with a diffident personal posture and careful language is acceptable to the global media. A braggadocio lout is condemned.

    But would you rather live under Xi or Trump?

    The rich Chinese are saying, “Trump.”

  5. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    5. September 2017 at 09:17

    Your “PS” has a “perhaps”, a “maybe” and “endless possibilities”—a great way to sum up your trolling headline followed by tears of a clown sadness of TPP loss, which would never have happened anyway.

    Maybe Korus will be ended, which would be stupid, but I am betting it won’t be. But even if it is, will that drive SK into the arms of China or stop SK from working with us against NK? No.

    I find it fascinating that while Trump is “mentally unstable”—(a term one google definition defines as “Borderline (Emotionally Unstable) Personality Disorder is a condition characterized by rapid mood shift, impulsivity, hostility and chaotic social relationships. People with borderline personality disorder usually go from one emotional crisis to another”), you do not characterize Li as anything even as he uses his insane frontman monkey to try to completely drive us out of Asia. Nor do you critique Trump’s 3 predecessors for putting Trump in this situation. Like all Trump obsessives, you get far more enjoyment from hating him, then focusing on what needs to be done.

    If only you were as irritated with Li as with Trump, you might actually add value to our public discourse.

  6. Gravatar of morgan s warstler morgan s warstler
    5. September 2017 at 10:30

    South Korea and China will bend to US demands, they will get to save some face, but in the end, they will be getting smaller piece of larger pie.

    That’s the what and why or free trade.

    First couple of hits of crack are free, until your Economy is levered up and communism can’t hit those GDP numbers, and BAM… your kids can’t go to US colleges…

    And suddenly, you BEND OVER and let Airbnb, Amazon, Google et dominate your markets.

  7. Gravatar of morgan s warstler morgan s warstler
    5. September 2017 at 10:32

    Michael, Scott is married to China / Asia. He doesn’t WANT to see them beaten.

    They get beaten. It is what it is…

  8. Gravatar of morgan s warstler morgan s warstler
    5. September 2017 at 10:35


    Scott, this makes you wrong huh?

  9. Gravatar of Max Max
    5. September 2017 at 13:59

    Actually it would be healthy if Asian countries leaned less heavily on the U.S. Yes, that means more influence for China, but it also means less U.S.-China friction.

  10. Gravatar of AlecFahrin AlecFahrin
    5. September 2017 at 19:36

    I’m not sure anymore what Trump is going to do. The president is following his gut and not his advisors.


    I believe your title is alarmist and inaccurate. Even if Trump’s foreign policy is letting go of US influence to the benefit of many other nations, it’s not necessarily much different than the retrenchment foreign policy of Obama.
    The hawks in the administration are putting more forces in East Asia, something Obama was hesitant towards. The administration is also more vocally anti-Chinese anti-Islam and anti-“West”.
    The difference here is that the administration has little credibility, and no grand strategy. That’s why we are seeing this hedging phenomenon across the world e.j. Vietnam, Merkel “we can’t rely on USA”, Moon “we can’t rely on our ally”.
    Trump’s domestic agenda is conflicting with his foreign policy agenda. That contradiction is showcased best with North Korea and the Chinese role in the issue. He thinks threats against China (and other nations) will convince them to sacrifice their national interests to the benefit of the USA. He talks about cooperation, but tosses it aside in every campaign rally.
    The reality here is that no one really knows who the president is, nor what he will do.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. September 2017 at 20:38

    Scott, I agree, and wish we had heard that sentiment more when Obama was President.

    Morgan, It seems like Trump pushed you and MF off the deep end.

    Max, You may be right.

    Alec, So do I–it was a joke.

  12. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    6. September 2017 at 04:06


    Yes, not many cared that Presidents’ trade authority had been enhanced, via fast track, for example, when most politicians in Washington favored freer trade. It was a remarkable consensus and was taken for granted.

    Better to now reign in ability to cancel treaties, at least.

  13. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    6. September 2017 at 05:10


    By election day, the only guy in favor of TPP was the guy not running for office, Barry O. This is a free trade vs. democracy issue.

    And of course, Russia, Russia, Russia. Nice Jan Brady.

    Keep up the good work at EconLog.

  14. Gravatar of Student Student
    6. September 2017 at 05:45


    Or you just copy the technology, snag the huge Asian market and push Arbnb, Amazon, and Google into the background. Aside from Google, there really aren’t any big knowledge barriers.

  15. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    6. September 2017 at 06:47

    None of the foreign policy issues Trump is facing are of his creation. They’re the result of previous admins, ‘kicking the cans down the road’. I.e., all the supposedly smart, non-insane politicians like Obama and Clinton, as well as the Bushes are responsible for them.

    Meanwhile, here’s another reason to be grateful that Trump defeated Hillary–remember; that was the choice last November;

    President Trump’s White House has put a stay on a burdensome new form from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that employers would have been required to submit next year.

    Currently employers with more than 100 employees have to report the race and sex of their workers by broad occupational category on an EEO-1 form. Last year the Obama administration approved the expansion of this form to include wages and hours worked.

    Employers would have to classify workers by gender, race, and ethnicity in 12 different pay bands, 14 gender/race/ethnicity groups, and 10 occupational categories, as well as hours worked per employee, beginning in March 2018. This would have been especially burdensome because now employers do not have to keep track of hours worked for workers on salary.

    This would have resulted in an expanded EEO-1 form with 3,360 data points instead of 180 data points. In addition, if the firm had multiple establishments (locations), it would have to have filled out one form for each establishment with more than 50 employees. Ten establishments could mean 33,600 data points.

    Neomi Rao, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Analysis, part of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, has put the expanded form on hold and said that her department will review the rule.

    What is extraordinary is that the Obama administration used the Paperwork Reduction Act to change the EEOC form. The Paperwork Reduction Act, which is supposed to reduce bookkeeping, was manipulated to require employers to complete far longer forms. This process avoided the more lengthy Notice of Proposed Rulemaking process required for a new form. Such methods increase Americans’ cynicism with government.

    One less big brother to worry about.

  16. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. September 2017 at 19:12

    “Are most Americans radical libertarians?”—Scott Sumner’s latest post at the libertarian EconLog where I am banned from commenting.

    People answer yes, they are radical libertarians, to certain framing of questions.

    Sumner should have better asked, “Are most American ‘libertarians’ frauds?”

    How about framing the question this way:

    “Can you support polygamy, the end of property zoning, the decriminalization of push-cart, motorcycle-sidecar and truck-vending, the elimination of the VA and ending the home-mortgage interest tax deduction?”

    Funny, the room just emptied out.

    You mean, the most ubiquitous and intrusive government intrusions are…actually (in the breach) embraced by American “libertarians”?

    Think about it: In a modern American city, every square foot of land is controlled by government. The private land is controlled, whether it can be residential or retail, and how dense etc. The public space is controlled to prevent push-cart vending and the like.

    Some food-trucks are cool, but hey we do not want clothing trucks and book trucks and smartphone trucks and all that clap-trap. And vegetable push-carts?

    I like free markets, especially as defined and circumscribed by me.

  17. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    6. September 2017 at 19:14


    Your next post could be asking whether Trump is a Democratic Party mole. As the question once asked by George Will goes, how differently would he act if he wasn’t just trying to destroy the Republican Party?

    Trump betrayed and humiliated Ryan and McConnell to their faces, cutting a deal with Schumer and Pelosi right in front of them!

    Does Trump realize that this, combined with throwing DACA at Congressional Republicans, may have killed his own tax cut push this year?

    What do you think Trump supporters? lol

  18. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    6. September 2017 at 22:36

    A new undergraduate economics curriculum? (HT Rajiv Sethi on Twitter)

    (FWIW I think it’s mostly an improvement, though there are issues with parts of it. Would have to read the whole thing to see if it’s better than Cowen/Tabarrok.)

  19. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    6. September 2017 at 22:42

    Here’s what the book looks like (free download available):

    I think the material on gains from trade and comparative advantage should really be presented at the start, though.

  20. Gravatar of JC JC
    7. September 2017 at 06:36

    I’m yet to decode the reason behind so many people hate toward free trade agreements in the US…

  21. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    7. September 2017 at 08:43

    “Once it became clear that the Russians tried to influence the election, Congress turned against the Kremlin.”

    Now it is influenced? What about “hacked”? What about “collusion”?

    No, once it became clear Hillary had a competitor who could win the election, the Russia narrative began. The emails that were released prove this. And, the only evidence of collusion with Russia was by the Clinton’s and their political allies.

    The evidence also shows that the DNC emails were downloaded locally, by someone on the inside at the DNC, not “hacked” over the Internet by a Russian hacker.

    Congress contains a lot of people apologetic to the Russia hacked the election lie.

  22. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    7. September 2017 at 08:44


  23. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    7. September 2017 at 08:46

    The WaPo is, and has been for many years, a CIA disinformation operation.

  24. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    7. September 2017 at 08:55

    Tariffs on Chinese steel imports will not “ensure a cost advantage” for Chinese steel manufacturers. To claim otherwise is to fail at basic economics.

    Tariffs would themselves be an additional cost for Chinese steel manufacturers to sell steel. It would of course harm US steel in the long run, because by effectively protecting less competitive higher cost US registered businesses from the world market, the drive to innovate and improve business operations decreases, the same way spoiling a teenager encourages more lethargy.

    It will harm the consumers in the long run, benefit US still in the short run, and harm Chinese steel in the short run.

    What tariffs don’t do is boost lower cost production.

  25. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    7. September 2017 at 08:59

    The “Trump is mentally unstable” narrative was hatched conveniently when the Russia colluded with Trump lie died. If you pay attention to the money flows, you can see the coordination in the alt left media in pushing the next fake news story. You can even see the exact same phrasing being used.

    Sumner has been completely brainwashed by the state.

  26. Gravatar of morgan s warstler morgan s warstler
    7. September 2017 at 10:47

    Student & Scott,

    Boy it freaks you out to even imagine, what I know is being discussed in Trumpville.

    China (and then India) being told they either respect US IP (which means Airbnb, Amazon, Google, Boeing, etc) GET to compete FAIRLY (which means they win)…


    Chinese kids all get kicked out of US schools.

    You see the Chinese students who study here, their parents are all the vanguard party folks, this is their ONE KID and he she is of COLLEGE age.

    China will BEND.

    They will eat it.

    Want US movies? Gotta use Netflix. No streaming services allowed, or your KIDS GO HOME.

    As I said, free trade is CRACK, if it isn’t great! you can’t use it to break commies to the bone.

    But it is great.

    And we don’t have to be nice.

    We’re the winners.

  27. Gravatar of Student Student
    7. September 2017 at 17:02

    I am not sure that ending their brain drain problem for them and depriving US universities some number of good students is as threatening as you think it is. Free trade is great for everyone, it’s not a zero sum game. And invoking free trade in defense of trump is kinda weird.

  28. Gravatar of Steve J Steve J
    7. September 2017 at 17:07


    China has 4 times as many people and higher average IQs than the US. China’s version of communism has now produced more billionaires than US democracy. Most Americans think college is not worth it – but China is going to cave in the trade war to get access to those worthless schools? Not your best argument.

  29. Gravatar of morgan s warstler morgan s warstler
    7. September 2017 at 21:02

    Steve & Student

    Sorry no. Their CULTURE is lesser. They never beat us. Scott loves cultures args. Nothing beats cowboys. When China decides to be more Texas than Texas, I’ll move there.


    But this is not that.

    China KNOWS it is lesser. It GETS IT. Just like Tony Soprano knows who he is.

    So yeah Steve, China can’t invent it’s way out of paper bag, compared to us, simply bc CULTURE. And dude, I don’t mean they can’t be Texas, I’m just saying until they do, they lose. 1B or 10B doesn’t matter.

  30. Gravatar of morgan s warstler morgan s warstler
    7. September 2017 at 21:12

    Student you are dumb.

    Let me explain.

    Your economy is sh*t and mine is great I WANT to trun you into me over time. See Memetics.

    Ok so in TRADE ONE (think iterative game theory, or con jobs): I make 10%c of my Economy open and you open 1% It’s 90 to 99.

    Next round, I open another 10% and you open 2% its 80 to 98.

    See how this goes?

    Now LOOK: We can only open 100%, no more than that. RIGHT?

    SO you silly child….


    China has to GIVE MORE than we have give.


    Notice however how I have JUMPED to Networked Theory and targeted BRAINS (read this as nodes)

    You see, China can’t educate their best like we can. So the PAIN POINT whether you like it or not… is DOMINANT.

    Because China is not stupid (like you) they have to GIVE MORE THAN THEY GET IN FUTURE TRADES (measured by opening markets) – THEY KNOW THIS.

    Since they know it… they KNOW it is a fait accompli

    t’s just a Question of WHEN, not IF

    They need their best nodes to be give the most bandwidth, memory, storage (knowledge) in order to compete…

    So again, LEAVE OUR SCHOOLS is totally rational in IP TRADE


    It’s obvious and rational, once I show it to you. Don’t be dumb! Think HOLY SH*T China can e made to bend by Trump.

    Get over it.

  31. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2017 at 05:31

    Morgan what you have just described is the strategy on china pretrump. I fail to see how pulling out of free trade deals across the globe is advantageous. Based on your own logic, I don’t see why you aren’t agreeing with Scott.

  32. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2017 at 05:35

    And also, China can’t invent as well due to extractive institutions. China had has one of the longest continuous cultures the world has ever seen (if not the longest full stop). And for much of that time, it was one of the most innovative cultures in earth. Point is culture isn’t the issue… it’s institutions. Their politics is still to dominated by to small a number of super elites that have to much personal interest in maintaining the status quo. That puts the breaks on disruptive innovation.

  33. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2017 at 05:40

    One more question. Has Silicon Valley been becoming more like Texas cowboy culture or have parts of Texas (Austin) been becoming more like Silicon Valley?

  34. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    8. September 2017 at 05:46


    Google “labor unrest in China” to help you understand where the leverage lies here.

    Why are so many Chinese buying up empty condo buildings across the Western world.

    You’re view of China as this inevitable juggernaut is not the view from the inside I don’t think.

  35. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2017 at 05:55

    Brian, slow down a minute. I don’t view china as an eventual juggernaut… unless the move to a much more pluralistic government with a much much larger number of politically powerful actors.

    China had a system well built for catch-up growth. It’s horribly but for innovation once it closes in on the technological frontier. At that point, extractive structures become a hinderance.

    I am simply saying pulling out of free trade agreements around the world is a bonehead move, especially for an economy at the technological frontier. Pull out of free trade agreements in Asian is a bad move by the USA and it does benefit China, which is why it’s a stupid move.

  36. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2017 at 06:02

    Buying up real estate… That’s akin to Chinese imports. The world (US in particular) is exporting real estate to the Chinese… we just don’t count these transactions in trade flows.

  37. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    8. September 2017 at 07:49

    Look, bargaining over terms of trade is game-theoretic. Trump has probably never read any game theory, there is a lot he doesn’t know, but he understands this stuff intuitively. It’s a strength of his.

  38. Gravatar of Student Student
    8. September 2017 at 08:28

    So he is like Bill Harding in Twister minus the scientific understanding?

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. September 2017 at 19:56

    Brian, Hillary favored TPP, despite her stated opposition.

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