China’s state-run Global Times unloaded on President Donald Trump in a Thursday editorial, preemptively accusing him of botching the yet-to-be-held denuclearization summit with Kim Jong-un by attempting to bully the North Korean leader with belligerent threats.
At heart, the Global Times editorial is the latest iteration of Beijing’s argument that America is a dying superpower viciously and unfairly resisting the rise of China as the new global hyperpower. The money quote is an attack on Trump as an “insane militarist” and “ugly, lecherous tyrant” – not that the ever-polite state propagandists of China would ever employ such crude language, heavens no, they’re just quoting “many American commentators” who call him that!
The bulk of the editorial, however, argues that America’s entire political and media class, and all of America’s closest allies, are belligerent and crazy too, unlike peace-loving China and its adorable client state North Korea:
In one of his recent statements, Trump noted that if the negotiations were to fail, the US would engage in a full-scale war with North Korea and, he assured the American electorate, South Korea will fully pay for the confrontation. Trump supporters accept his statements and praise him as a shrewd manager who saves the taxpayers’ money.
Still, a more detailed analysis of Trump’s statement indicates not just the lack of logic, but an element of insanity. It is not just that South Korea and Japan would be utterly devastated in the case of war, but their desire to cover US expenses and, in general terms, to support the US’ possible ventures is questionable. If one remembers, a few months ago, Trump publicly stated that he would rather start a war in North Korea before it has missiles which could strike the US and noted that he understands a war would lead to thousands of deaths. He added that he would rather see these deaths in South Korea and Japan rather than in the US. Thus, Trump is ready to sacrifice South Korea and Japan and at the same time expects them to fully support his policy toward North Korea.
Many American commentators, those from the liberal and leftist mass media, would agree that Trump is an insane militarist, an ugly, lecherous tyrant who has made one wrong step after another, and consequently, his impeachment and replacement by a more appropriate leader would lead to a more sound US foreign policy. Thus, the entire problem is reduced to Trump as a person.
This is hardly the case. Trump’s policy represents the views of a broad segment of the American elite. Unable to understand the US’ withering ability to maintain its global hegemony and misreading the end of the Cold War, it engaged in reckless actions, and on occasion, almost insane verbalization.
The Global Times is not much kinder to Barack Obama or his failed successor Hillary Clinton, who it accuses of arrogance concealed by their seemingly humble “lead from behind” strategy, culminating in the destruction of Libya. (The Chinese editorialists are a hung up on Libya because the Trump administration has mentioned it as a precedent, either to be followed or avoided, for North Korean denuclearization.)
The Global Times hammers Trump for not doing enough to avoid “following in Obama’s footsteps” and hectors him for sharing essentially the same delusion that he is smarter and tougher than all previous presidents.
Obama fans can take some comfort from knowing that it is not really personal – the editorial is an incoherent rant against every quarter of American foreign policy that beats Trump with every club in China’s ideological golf bag, including the Clinton nine-iron and the Obama mashie-niblick. It is an editorial that begins by castigating Trump as a warmongering bully who wants to blow up Pyongyang and ends by asserting that if Trump averts hostilities by making a deal with Kim, it will only prove that America is weak.
China’s state-run media comes off a schizophrenic because Beijing and its absolute ruler-for-life Xi Jinping are not sure what they want out of the Trump-Kim summit, or if they will be able to influence the outcome in any way. At the moment, Xi is backed into a corner because he cannot publicly criticize the summit too much or actively undermine it, but there are many possible outcomes that would serve Western interests at China’s expense.
Trump has publicly needled Xi for goading North Korea into the antics that nearly scuttled the summit, which is probably one of the reasons Chinese media is frothing with rage at Trump as he packs his bags for Singapore. When it looked like the summit was off two weeks ago, American editorial pages were swift to judge the apparent diplomatic debacle a big win for China.
It is easy to see how a successful denuclearization process that freezes out Beijing would deal an embarrassing blow to Chinese prestige. Kim Jong-un might even relish striking such a blow, if the darkest rumors about his dealings with China and Xi are true, or if he wants to touch off a bidding war between China, Russia, and the Western world for influence in Pyongyang. There are few roads leading from a successful Singapore meeting that look good for China’s diplomatic model of the world.