Donald Trump lashed out at a familiar enemy during his acceptance speech yesterday (July 21)—China.
Speaking at the Republican party’s national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, where he officially became its nominee for US president, he railed against the World Trade Organization, pledged to dismantle and renegotiate trade deals.
Then he promised to “enforce all trade violations against any country that cheats,” and singled out China (at the 56:00 mark), raising his voice into a hoarse shout:
This includes stopping China’s outrageous theft of intellectual property, along with their illegal product dumping, and their devastating currency manipulation. They are the greatest that ever came about, they are the greatest currency manipulators ever. Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others will be totally renegotiated.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s threats were criticized in China, where his Chinese nickname means “bed broken.”
People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, said Trump was making “groundless accusations” (link in Chinese) against China. On social media platform Weibo (link in Chinese, registration required), user Wu Duo said “Trump is using nationalism to incite people and trying his best to unify all possible support from white people.”
Still, the Global Times, a People’s Daily offshoot, reports that readers of guancha.cn, a Chinese site focused on politics and social issues are rooting for Trump. Why? Because they believe he “will mess up the US and allow China to overtake the US as soon as possible.”
Trump’s promise to dismantle trade deals (including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement) while at the same time enforcing trade deal infractions is head-scratching enough. But, as Quartz has written before, his long-held insistence that China is manipulating its currency to hurt US trade was short on facts.
For most of Trump’s campaign, he’s had it completely backwards. Through the 1990s and most of the 2000s, China was suspected of heavily devaluing its currency. But since about 2007 that value has appreciated sharply, and for most of the second half of last year, Beijing was believed to be propping it up.
Trump’s simple shouts that the Chinese are “the greatest currency manipulators ever” makes it unclear whether he knows which way China’s currency is going, or how affects US trade at all. Maybe that’s why Trump’s rise, as the Global Times reports, has “stumped” Chinese scholars as well.