When he was still employed as President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon said a lot of questionable things about China. He insisted repeatedly that China was responsible for so many U.S. jobs being shipped overseas, and many people considered him the driving force behind many of President Trump’s calls for harsher economic stance against the country.
Just days before he was ousted, Bannon also called Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect and insisted that the U.S. is at “economic war with China.”
‘We’re at economic war with China. It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.’
‘To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.’
Bannon has made some harsh comments about China, but his views may have changed a bit in the last month. The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Bannon flew to Beijing last week for a secret meeting with Wang Qishan, the head of the Chinese Communist party’s anti-corruption campaign.
The meeting took place at Zhongnanhai, a Chinese leadership compound, after Bannon visited Hong Kong to deliver a closed-door speech to the audience at a big investor conference hosted by CLSA, a Chinese state-owned brokerage and investment group.
One source familiar with the situation said about Bannon’s meeting:
‘The Chinese reached out to Bannon before his Hong Kong speech because they wanted to ask him about economic nationalism and populist movements which was the subject of his speech.’
During his speech in Hong Kong, Bannon reportedly said that he left the White House to be Trump’s “wingman” and to campaign on behalf of congressional candidates who will back his “America first” agenda.
The source who spoke to the Financial Times also stressed that Bannon’s visit was not connected in any way to President Trump’s upcoming trip to China.
Around the same time that he delivered his speech there, Bannon revealed to the Daily Mail that Trump will be traveling to Hong Kong in November to negotiate a new trade relationship with President Xi Jinping. Despite his previous comments about the U.S. and China already being at economic war with each other, Bannon said that he thought a war could be avoided.
‘There’s too much at stake to slip into a trade war right off the bat.
‘I think it has to be engagement [between] the United States and China. I think the November meeting with the president is going to really be that, and I think good things will come out of it.
‘I think we’ll avoid a trade war,’ Bannon predicted, ‘simply for the fact that the president has shown that he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to protect American jobs, and to bring back manufacturing jobs.
‘So, you know, you have a very aggressive president. But I think they’ll reach some sort of accommodation.’
Featured image via Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.