Friday, July 17, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, excerpt twelve)

from The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton:

With the press gone, Xi said this is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. He said that some (unnamed) political figures in the United States were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war, this time between China and the United States. Whether Xi meant to finger the Democrats, or some of us sitting on the US side of the table, I don’t know, but Trump immediately assumed Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.

Trump then raised the negotiations’ collapse in May, urging China to return to the positions it had retracted. Breezing by China’s failure to do anything on fentanyl and its seizure of Canadian hostages (not to mention the American hostages), both discussed in Buenos Aires, Trump urged that the two sides start from where they had left off in May and pursue the negotiations to conclude the most exciting, largest deal ever made. Out of nowhere, Xi answered by comparing the impact of an unequal deal with us to the “humiliation” of the Treaty of Versailles, which had taken Shandong province from Germany but given it to Japan. Xi said with a straight face that if China suffered the same humiliation in our trade negotiations, there would be an upsurge of patriotic feeling in China, implicitly indicating that that feeling would be directed against the United States. Trump manifestly had no idea what Xi was referring to, but said that a treaty of non-equals was not in Xi’s blood. History being a very easy subject for Trump once it was broached, he implied China owed the US a favor for knocking Japan out of World War II. Xi then lectured us on how China fought for nineteen years, and relied mainly on themselves to defeat the Japanese aggressors. Of course, this was just as nonsensical; the Chinese Communists had spent most of the war ducking Japan and trying to undercut the Chinese Nationalists. The war ended when it did because we used atomic bombs, but Xi was reciting history from the Communist catechism, not that Trump understood that either.

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