Religious bigotry and foreign policy

In the previous post I expressed puzzlement over Trump’s foreign policy.  Why does Trump seem more concerned about China that Russia?  My sister sent me one possible explanation:

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian west is on the retreat,” Bannon said during a February 2016 radio show.

On the day Trump was inaugurated, China’s military warned that war between the two countries was a real possibility.

“A ‘war within the president’s term’ or ‘war breaking out tonight’ are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality,” an official wrote on the website of the People’s Liberation Army.

Aside from conflict between armies, Bannon repeatedly focused on his perception that Christianity around the world is under threat.

In one radio show, used to promote an article incorrectly claiming that a mosque had been built at the North Pole, Bannon focused heavily on China’s oppression of Christian groups.

I do agree with Bannon that the North Pole is not an appropriate place for a mosque—the South Pole would be far better.  You see, the North Pole is in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and mosques need solid foundations.

I always wondered why Bannon was unconcerned that Russia had attacked one nation with 40 million people, and another with 4 million, and yet seemed deeply concerned about the aggressive Chinese.  Now we know, in addition to being a racist he’s also a religious bigot who thinks non-Judeo/Christians are bad people.  (At least that’s an improvement over the Spanish Inquisition, where even Jews were excluded from the in-group.)

There’s also this:

The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East.

Lots of Trump supporters seemed to think he was the “peace” candidate, and yet his top advisor thinks war with China is inevitable.

I’m certainly no fan of the Chinese policies in the South China Sea.  But instead of threatening tens of millions of people in nations on their borders, the Chinese are threatening the non-human residents of these lonely atolls:

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 6.46.00 PMI like tropical fish as much as the next guy, probably more.  But I’m not sure about the wisdom of risking a nuclear war with China to save them.

Steve Bannon sure has some “interesting” theories.  I wonder if those disgruntled steel workers in Ohio know what they voted for when they pulled the lever for Trump.

My sister also wondered whether Trump picking a fight with the new Australian PM was the smartest move, given that we might want their support in the inevitable war with China.

(Just to let you know—if Trump goes to war with China, I’m on China’s side.)

PS.  Bannon’s anti-Asian sentiment also impacts his views on immigration.  I recall when Trump suggested we need more high skilled immigrants and Bannon scolded him by pointing out that that would result in lots of Asians, who don’t share our cultural values.

PPS.  I see on CNBC the Trumpistas are viewing this as a great jobs report.  There were 233,000 new jobs (the sort of figure often seen under Obama), the unemployment rate went up to 4.8% and the year over year wage growth fell from 2.9% to 2.5%.  And whereas Trump said the Obama economy was horrible, we are to believe that this is an excellent report.

Also recall that Trump claimed the Obama unemployment figures were lies and that the true rate was as high as 30% or 40%.  So that implies one of the three following options:

a.  The true unemployment rate fell from at least 30% to just 4.8%, in just one month.

b.  The Trump administration is lying, and the true unemployment rate is still as high as 30% or 40%.

c.  Trump is a pathological liar, and never believed his unemployment conspiracy theories.

I vote for option c.  If you are a Trumpista, please tell me which option you think is true.

PPPS.  On a serious note (finally!), I read the market reaction as stocks up because of the strong 227,000 figure, and bond yields down because of the weak wage growth.  Wall Street loves fast NGDP growth and slow hourly wage growth.  That’s the sweet spot for corporate America.



24 Responses to “Religious bigotry and foreign policy”

  1. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    3. February 2017 at 06:34

    I wonder how much stocks are up because financial firms are about to be freed from the horrible shackles of having to act in the best interests of their clients regarding retirement accounts. Obviously a very populist move.

  2. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    3. February 2017 at 06:37

    Here we have the touching story of a CEO who hoped for lower taxes under Trump, but finds the contemplated import tariff would cost him a lot.

    “My wife, who’s a radical Democrat, is laughing at me on this one… It never occurred to me it would actually get worse for us, not better.”

  3. Gravatar of James Alexander James Alexander
    3. February 2017 at 06:49

    Or does Wall St just like looser monetary policy? (that drives the USD and rates down)

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. February 2017 at 07:45

    James, I don’t think anything happened today that implies looser monetary policy, unless you think low interest rates are loose policy (and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, despite your not understanding what monetary offset is.)

  5. Gravatar of BC BC
    3. February 2017 at 08:19

    Scott, I agree that Bannon is a dangerous racist, etc. and that Trump is a foreign policy idiot. However, why do you keep characterizing the South China Sea conflict as a dispute over some tiny, uninhabited islands? The dispute is obviously over the entire South China Sea, whose shipping lanes carry about 5 trillion dollars of goods per year, including about a third of global maritime traffic []. Do you really believe that, when China deploys military assets on a tiny island, it merely wants to claim that particular island rather than gain a strategic advantage for asserting claims over the South China Sea more broadly? By that argument, Putin didn’t actually invade (all of) Crimea; he merely wanted some roads and the small patches of (mostly uninhabited) land on which he placed troops and other military gear. The fact that Crimea subsequently left the Ukraine to be annexed by Russia was pure coincidence.

  6. Gravatar of James Alexander James Alexander
    3. February 2017 at 08:30

    Weak wage growth makes markets think the Fed won’t raise rates soon. Liquidity effect trumping expectations effect, today. So bad news (wages) is good news (for rates, they go lower).

    Market rates rise when good news (on wages, say) is matched by good news (that the Fed won’t offset it with raising rates). Expectations trump liquidity.

    Have replied on monetary offset at Econlog.

  7. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    3. February 2017 at 08:55

    “Why does Trump seem more concerned about China that Russia?”

    -Because Russia did nothing wrong, while China is doing something wrong.

    “Lots of Trump supporters seemed to think he was the “peace” candidate, and yet his top advisor thinks war with China is inevitable.”

    -Both can be true. Take a look at Crooked’s policy toward the South China Sea.

  8. Gravatar of HW HW
    3. February 2017 at 09:19

    Perhaps China made a strategic mistake in underinvesting in its military. They probably didn’t count on the quality of US leadership to deteriorate at this rate and trusted the US to be cautious enough not to risk a military confrontation with China in the near-term.

  9. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    3. February 2017 at 10:59

    the Chinese are threatening the non-human residents of these lonely atolls:

    How naive can a person be? The Spratly Islands are located right next to Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. China got no coast even near by but they are nevertheless creating airfields on artificial islands very close to the coasts of the mentioned three nations and claim the whole area as theirs.

    What’s next? China creating island next to California and claiming the whole Northern Pacific Ocean? They must be stopped as soon as possible.

    Sometimes I have to assume that Scott or members of his family get (more or less directly) paid by the Chinese. Or why does he downplay China’s aggressions all the time? Can you be that naive? Really? Imagine Russia doing something similar, like building artificial island close to Alaska and claiming the whole Bering Sea for example. I hope the money is worth it.

  10. Gravatar of d d
    3. February 2017 at 12:48

    on a lighter note

    tropical fish dont live in sea water. thats a different kettle of fish

    and i am guessing we had to from 30-40% unemployment in less than 2 weeks. and that would be YUGE!

    but thats just an alternate fact

  11. Gravatar of Mattias Mattias
    3. February 2017 at 13:00

    I’m still waiting for someone to explain why Trump’s infrastructure spending will lead to higher growth when Obama’s 2009 spending bill was considered a failure and the 2013 fiscal cliff didn’t lead to lower growth.

  12. Gravatar of sean sean
    3. February 2017 at 13:06

    Two thoughts:

    I thought Kushner would be the dominant behind the scene force in Trump administration. Which made me feel very comfortable. If Bannon is the dominant force I’m fairly concerned. I think Trump is mostly a marketer/self promoter. So the guy who controls his ear is the guy I care about

    2. Perfect number for stocks. High employment growth so economy is growing. Low wage growth implies theirs still a good bit of unemployed resources hence larger output gap…less pressure to hike rates etc.

  13. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    3. February 2017 at 16:22

    I hope the money is worth it.

    Wait, what? Scott, you get paid by the Chinese too?!? I’m only getting paid by Soros… I didn’t know the Chinese were paying as well. Damn!

  14. Gravatar of Radford Neal Radford Neal
    3. February 2017 at 20:29

    The argument here seems confused. Bannon’s statement was made in February 2016. At that time, he was not an advisor to the US President, and would have had little (realistic) reason to think that he ever would be. So his statement about war with China was presumably a simple prediction, not a statement of intent. I don’t know whether this prediction is well founded or not (presumably the “no doubt” was rhetorical exaggeration), but either way, I don’t see why it would be any sort of direct indication of what policies he will advise Trump to adopt.

  15. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. February 2017 at 21:10

    Christian List,

    “What’s next? China creating island next to California and claiming the whole Northern Pacific Ocean? They must be stopped as soon as possible.”

    Wrong analogy. The US going to war for the Spratlys is like China going to war for Catalina island off L.A. It’s the US that’s the foreign body in the South China Sea, not China.

    Now, from an international rule of law point of view, and with an eye on protecting trade routes, I have always seen China’s foothold as a concern and given arbitration results, as unlawful. From a Machiavellian standpoint though, now that the US has turned into a global threat to peace and prosperity, things have changed. China’s land grab, with hindsight, now looks like brilliant strategic foresight and a geopolitical necessity. The US can’t be trusted to uphold the rule of law and freedom of trade and movement for at least 4 more years, and possibly never again. If the US has control over the Spratlys, it will use it to disrupt trade. This must be prevented. Therefore, it is now in my interest, and in the entire world’s interest, that China controls the South China Sea. Never mind China’s interest. Just from an utilitarian standpoint. And trust me, all those Asian countries that used to side with the US against China, will very quickly side with China now. You don’t have to worry about Scott, or me. Worry about the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam. Which, taken together, have about the population size of the US. Who knows when Japan will accommodate China and dump the US. If China is strategically smart, they’ll offer Japan an olive branch over WWII grievances as a sweetener to get them over to their side. AU and NZ will drop like flies into China’s lap (already under way). Then, finally, the US will really be toast in the entire Pacific.

    I would have preferred the US. Culturally, and for what used to be their values. But, if Trump-a-kiri it is, what can I do. Plan B.

    Besides, frankly. China produces my PCs, Korea my phones, Germany and Japan my cars. Last thing I bought from the US was some guitar stuff, technology of the 1960s. A piece of wood basically. China produces the useful stuff, the US produces bombs and “judeo-christian” (what does that even mean in today’s world??) zealotry. And I don’t mean to be anti religion. Just anti abuse of religion for political purposes. Physical access to China is way more important for my life than physical access to the US. US distribution of ideology is harmful enough when it comes over the internet.

  16. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    3. February 2017 at 23:44

    ” . . . the US produces bombs . . . ”

    Defending ‘democracy’?

    “In President Obama’s last year in office, the United States dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries. This estimate is undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single “strike,” according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions. In 2016, the United States dropped 3,028 more bombs—and in one more country, Libya—than in 2015.”

  17. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    4. February 2017 at 00:44


    I agree that the US has slipped relative to China over the last few decades, but you’re writing the US eulogy a little soon. The US is still the number 2 manufacturer in the world by a huge margin over number 3, Japan. We’re also by far the largest developer of software in the world and software will only be more important in manufacturing going forward.

  18. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    4. February 2017 at 22:00

    From TIME magazine

    Five Ways China Has Become More Repressive Under President Xi Jinping

    Charlie Campbell / Beijing

    Oct 06, 2016

    Respect for human-rights and rule of law have deteriorated markedly during the term of Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to a new U.S. government report, which blames an ideological tightening within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a slowing economy brings the legitimacy of its rule into focus.

    The almost 80,000-word bipartisan U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) 2016 report, released Thursday morning, raises long-festering issues such as repression of ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as the erosion of autonomy in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

    However, the CECC notes a broader corrosion of freedoms, encompassing a social and political reinforcement of the supremacy of the CCP under Xi’s leadership, with deleterious consequences for civil society, media freedom, labor rights and judicial due process.


    Surely I hope the USA goes not to war anywhere, including China. Since Korea, we have spent $10 trillion or more on overseas wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq), which were evidently counter-productive efforts and tar-babies besides.

    But…is Putin any worse or any better than Xi, Duterte, Kim, or the guys in green uniforms who took over a SE Asian nation?

    Should Trump try to get along with Xi but not Putin, or vice versa, and based on what principles (if any)?

    Okay, so no principles involved. Then, as a practical matter, should the US cozy up to Putin and Xi?

    Interesting questions.

  19. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    5. February 2017 at 02:01

    “Five Ways China Has Become More Repressive Under President Xi Jinping”

    Helped by US/Western businesses?

    Alan Tonelson comments that US industry giants were/are transferring technology {much with defence implications} to China. 7min in.

  20. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    5. February 2017 at 04:41

    Not all is well in China internally, for sure. But at least, liberalism and neoliberalism aren’t dirty words among the educated youth.

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. February 2017 at 11:23

    BC, If China claims the shipping lanes then I’ll agree with you. I don’t expect them to.

    Christian, You said:

    “Sometimes I have to assume that Scott or members of his family get (more or less directly) paid by the Chinese.”

    You really think the Chinese government would pay me to say that I oppose their actions in the South China Seas? The Chinese government may be dumb, but they aren’t that dumb.

    But I know someone who is that dumb.

    Radford, Fair point, but in the context of the entire statement it’s a pretty hawkish interview. When you say war between the Judeo/Christian world and the Chinese Muslim world is inevitable, there’s an implied message that you think China really is our enemy, not that it’s all in our heads. But yes, technically your interpretation is possible.

    mbka, Since your views are similar to mine, you must also be getting paid by the Chinese government.

    Ben, There’s no doubt that Xi is a bad guy, and that human rights have deteriorated in some respects. But would you agree that China has also liberalized in quite a few ways during recent years? It’s a mixed bag.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. February 2017 at 11:25

    mbka. Thanks for that link. It is consistent with my claim that the narrative arts produce liberal values.

  23. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    5. February 2017 at 16:40

    Scott–I may be biased by “anti-Xi” connections in Hong Kong. The consensus seems to be China is devolving politically. What Putin did to Russia is the parallel.

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. February 2017 at 12:53

    Ben, I notice the press is also biased. One day China will end the one child policy, and the next a journalist will say China is becoming less free. Go figure. I visit China every few years, and I’ve seen improvements in freedom, except for freedom of speech, which is regressing.

Leave a Reply