Cast your mind back nine months to a time before the prospect of a future President Trump became too scary to contemplate. The Donald was simply a reliable source of internet humour who just happened to be running for leader of the free world in some kind of extremely high-stakes series of The Apprentice. One particular video, Huffington Post-ed last August, had your correspondent in stitches, to the point where he may or may not have watched it on a loop for a solid hour.
China. China, china, china. Donald Trump loves him some China.
Trump claimed this tweet was a joke. If it was, it was as successful as an attempt to get Trump to invest in ice cream gloves. The tweet may not have had me laughing, but it did have me wondering: Why is Donald Trump so obsessed with China? I had to find out.
What does Trump think of China?
Back in January 2011, when Trump was threatening a 2012 presidential run he spoke to Wolf Blitzer (a latter-day Van Helsing) about China, saying "These are not our friends. These are our enemies. These are not people that understand niceness."
Later in his 2011 presidential test-run, Trump called China an "absolute abuser of the United States." I'm happy to go on record that Donald Trump is an absolute abuser of fake tan, which I feel evens the score somewhat.
Every presidential candidate has to say something about China, just like every candidate has to quote their favourite Bible verse. But how do we know Trump is not just concerned, but obsessed with China? The answer lies in a short exchange Trump had with Chinese news agency Xinhua, when he claimed he'd read "hundreds of books about China," in order to "understand the Chinese mind." This sounded like an empty boast, but when the reporter asked Trump to name some, he rattled off a list of twenty books - arguably one of the most concrete and detailed answers to any question he has been asked on the campaign trail.
Judging by the books he chose to read ("Poorly Made in China" by Paul Midler, anyone?) and his statements about the country, you would have to say he sees China the way Rocky saw Apollo Creed before basically adopting his son and beating him to an Oscar nomination: a formidable foe not to be underestimated, but ultimately someone he can take down through sheer white determination.
Despite having read these books, he doesn't speak the language. Given the ample Mandarin translation services available, or basic online guides to simple Chinese phrases, you'd think The Donald could dedicate some time to getting deeper into his fixation. Instead, he went to the Mickey Rooney School of Asian Linguistics and learnt a highly offensive broken English which he used to mock the Chinese at a huge rally.
In August 2016, Donald Trump appeared on The O'Reilly Factor (a talent show where four judges search for the new Bill O'Reilly) and said when China's president Xi Jinping arrived in the US, he should not be given a state dinner, but a Big Mac instead.
To his credit, maybe Trump thought a state dinner would be a bit of a waste, seeing as the Chinese people don't "understand niceness." In which case, swapping out the state dinner was an inspired decision.
When Trump gave himself away
We know Trump is more obsessed with China than a dealer on the Antiques Roadshow, and so far it seems like he is as vitriolic towards the country as David Cameron is towards the notion of paying his taxes. But Trump came out as a Chinaphile on June 16 last year. He told the crowd, "People say 'oh you don't like China' but I love 'em... I just sold a $15 million apartment to someone from China. Am I supposed to dislike 'em?"
What Trump said next was a little more revealing. Much in the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day, Trump's relentless verbiage on the topic of China gave way to what was arguably a tiny glint of honesty.
"[T]heir leaders are much smarter than our leaders," he said. He compared China to the New England Patriots, and the USA to a high school football team. But Trump doesn't want to be Coach Taylor to the US's Dillon Panthers. Trump's plan to compete with China involves no last-minute inspirational locker-room speeches. Instead, he wants to simply levy the country "until they behave properly" - presumably, that means "until they stop doing better than America, economically."
To condense Trump's rambling into something more concise: China is winning. America is losing. And if there's anything Donald Trump hates, it's losing.Suggest a correction