Monday, April 17, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to walk back a tweet in which he basically said he was bribing China to handle North Korea for him.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted, "Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?" This was apparently an attempt to explain his sudden change of heart regarding the country--and whether or not it was devaluing its currency--after his meeting with President Xi Jinping. Officially labeling a country a currency manipulator, which candidate Trump swore he would do on his first day in office, has legal consequences.

China has some influence over North Korea, but until now, the United States has absolutely refused to allow China to extract a price for that influence, since a (relatively) stable Pyongyang is in China's interests as well. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have held that if China is allowed to effectively sell security on the Korean peninsula, it will signal other countries that they can also demand concessions for allying with the United States.

Sean Spicer today denied that Trump's tweet constituted a quid pro quo arrangement, saying that China has not devalued its currency since Trump took office. This is correct; China has in fact been propping up the yuan for several years--including during last year's campaign when Trump was accusing them of the opposite, and blasting the Obama administration for not taking action against them. 

Why is this a bad thing?

  • American national security should not be outsourced to the Chinese government.
  • Offering to pay someone to do something they've always done for free is not the sign of a brilliant negotiator.
  • The Chinese government has Twitter.