Many expected China-bashing from Steve Bannon when the news came out that he was slated to address an investor forum in Hong Kong this week. After all, the former chief strategist of US president Donald Trump had just told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that China is already at “economic war” with the US—something he seems to have long believed.
But Bannon’s speech to a mix of Western and Asian investors on Sept. 12—his first overseas appearance since leaving the White House in August—turned out to be a complete about-face. “Chinese way of running their economic system is quite brilliant. I tip my hat to them,” Bannon said, according to Wei Du, a correspondent with Channel NewsAsia, a Singaporean TV broadcaster. Du says she attended the session, which was closed to most media.
Bannon was invited by CLSA, an overseas unit of CITIC Securities, China’s largest investment bank by assets. The topic of his speech was “American economic nationalism, the populist revolt, and Asia,” according to CLSA. CLSA at first said there would be a live feed of the speech, but later announced it would bar media from the hourlong session at Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt hotel.
According to Du’s tweets, Bannon also addressed the rising risks of potential military conflicts in Asia, and here too there was a bizarre turnaround. In the past he has said that the US and China are headed for war in the South China Sea in 5-10 years; last week he told the New York Times (paywall), “China right now is Germany in 1930. It’s on the cusp. It could go one way or the other. The younger generation is so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic.” This time, though, he praised the “special alliance and affinity” of Americans and Chinese people dating back to World War II, and said the two nations are vital to bringing peace to the world.
Bannon gave a big thumbs-up to Chinese president Xi Jinping, who he said is “extraordinary” and a “man of wisdom,” according to Du’s tweets. “There isn’t a world leader he [Trump] respects more than the President of China,” he said.
And Bannon also reportedly revealed for the first time that he had been in charge of an effort in the White House to turn Google and Facebook into public utilities:
He said he would expand Breitbart News, the right-wing website he ran before joining the Trump campaign and where he now serves as executive chairman, to Egypt and India: