Donald Trump, the man who once openly mocked a disabled reporter, now promises to announce next Monday "the most dishonest & corrupt media awards of the year," targeting news organizations which once prompted him to whine "I can't believe the media is allowed to write anything they want."
And so by one measure, Grump' support for the freedom of critics of the Iranian regime to dissent is a welcome departure. "The people of Iran," Grump tweets, "are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets. The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
If that seems hypocritical (as well as inaccurate)- which obviously it is- you may remember that Donald Trump, who as President has blocked individuals from his personal Twitter account, was once not so supportive of dissent abroad. Responding to the Tianamen Square protest of 1998, Trump in 1999 declared “The Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak."
There may be few things which better define Donald Trump, for therein he reveals not only his admiration for dictators but his willingness- nay, desire- to promote the Communist Chinese government. Evan Osnos, explaining how the President is "making China great again," writes
China’s leaders rarely air their views about an American President, but well-connected scholars—the ranking instituteniks of Beijing and Shanghai and Guangzhou—can map the contours of their assessments. Yan Xuetong is the dean of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Modern International Relations. At sixty-five, Yan is bouncy and trim, with short silver hair and a roaring laugh. When I arrived at his office one evening, he donned a black wool cap and coat, and we set off into the cold. Before I could ask a question, he said, “I think Trump is America’s Gorbachev.” In China, Mikhail Gorbachev is known as the leader who led an empire to collapse. “The United States will suffer,” he warned.
Over a dinner of dumplings, tofu, and stir-fried pork, Yan said that America’s strength must be measured partly by its ability to persuade: “American leadership has already dramatically declined in the past ten months. In 1991, when Bush, Sr., launched the war against Iraq, it got thirty-four countries to join the war effort. This time, if Trump launched a war against anyone, I doubt he would get support from even five countries. Even the U.S. Congress is trying to block his ability to start a nuclear war against North Korea.” For Chinese leaders, Yan said, “Trump is the biggest strategic opportunity.” I asked Yan how long he thought the opportunity would last. “As long as Trump stays in power,” he replied.
A foreign affairs specialist at Fudan University in Shanghai has remarked "China Knows Trump can be unpredictable, so we have weapons to make him predictable, to contain him. He would trade Taiwan for jobs." Osnos notes "China's leaders predicted that a time would come- perhaps midway through this century- when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of 'America First," that time has come far sooner than expected."
At a campaign rally in April, 2016, Trump boasted "China’s upset because of the way Donald Trump is talking about trade with China. They’re ripping us off, folks, it’s time. I’m so happy they’re upset." They may have been upset about how he as a candidate was talking about their country. But as mainland Chinese leaders now observe an American president who has squandered his nation's leadership abroad, they are quite delighted.