China’s Man in Washington, Named Trump
Our president is bolstering a nation, but it’s not the United States.
By Nicholas Kristof / 纪思道
Opinion Columnist / 专栏作者
June 20, 2020 / 2020年6月20日
Nicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images / 2017年，中国国家主席习近平与特朗普总统在北京。
“Nobody has been tougher on China than me,” President Trump has declared repeatedly, and he is trying to exploit anti-China feelings for his re-election. He portrays Joe Biden as soft on China, and his backers have run ads denouncing “Beijing Biden.”
All that is preposterous, for it is Trump who has been China’s stooge, a sycophantic flatterer and enabler of President Xi Jinping. If that wasn’t already evident, John Bolton’s new book, “The Room Where It Happened,” portrays Trump as practically kowtowing to Xi.
所有这一切都是荒谬的，因为特朗普才是中国的跟班、阿谀奉承的谄媚者，习近平主席的纵容者。在约翰·博尔顿(John Bolton)的新书《事发之室》(The Room Where It Happened)中，特朗普根本就是在给习近平叩头。
The kowtow meant prostrating oneself before the emperor or a patriarch and knocking one’s head on the ground. Today it takes the form of a fawning American president publicly declaring, “President Xi loves the people of China” and hailing Xi’s “very capable” handling of the coronavirus.
I’ve been gasping as I read an advance copy of Bolton’s book, particularly his chapter on relations with China, because China policy perfectly captures Trump’s soaring hypocrisy wrapped in venal incompetence.
The passage in the book that got the most attention concerns a telephone conversation between Trump and Xi last year.
“He [Trump] then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes.
Yet perhaps what troubles me even more is Trump’s kowtowing to China’s human rights abuses to win favor with Xi.
“On June 4, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Trump refused to issue a White House statement,” Bolton writes, quoting Trump as saying, “Who cares about it?”
Xi has imprisoned some one million Muslims in modern concentration camps in the Xinjiang region, in what may be the largest internment of people based on religious categories since the Holocaust.
“Xi explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang,” Bolton writes. “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
Trump has also largely abandoned two Canadian citizens whom China has imprisoned as hostages to try to prevent Canada from extraditing a prominent businesswoman, Meng Wanzhou, to the United States. The United States should stand with Canada to end such hostage-taking; instead, Trump has validated it by suggesting that he can interfere with the legal process to solve problems.
Trump has denied making some of these comments, but then again Trump has made more than 19,000 false or misleading statements since assuming the presidency, by the count of The Washington Post. Moreover, the White House’s main objection to Bolton’s book is that it publishes classified information — and statements are considered classified only if they are true. The White House thus provides backdoor confirmation of the book’s general truthfulness.
It has always been ludicrous for the Trump campaign to denounce “Beijing Biden,” when Trump publicly lavishes more affection on Xi than on Melania. “President Xi is extremely capable,” is “strong, sharp and powerfully focused,” is “doing a very good job,” and is “a man who truly loves his country,” Trump has said on various occasions this year alone.
My own view as a China-watcher who lived for years in Beijing is that we should stand up to Xi where we need to — while also negotiating on trade and seeking ways to cooperate on climate change, pandemics and more. Trump does the opposite: He bungles trade and achieves nothing there, fails to cooperate on climate or health, damages America’s alliances and ignores Xi’s worst abuses, all while flattering Xi in apparent hopes of getting re-election help.
In other words, Trump seems to be doing his utmost to make a country great again. It’s just not America.