WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump pleaded with Chinese leader Xi JinPing to help him win a re-election and sold allies down the drain so as to not displease Beijing, former National Security Advisor John Bolton has alleged in explosive revelations that will weigh heavily in New Delhi on whether it can or should count on the current White House dispensation in its border spat with its north-eastern neighbor.
In sensational disclosures contained in his upcoming book “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,”
Bolton also reveals that Trump flattered Xi as the “greatest leader in Chinese history,” denigrated Taiwan vis-à-vis China, forfeited US leverage by declining to take a stand on the developments in Hong Kong and Tienanmen massacre, and astonishingly, told Xi that he approved of Chinese concentration camps in Xinjiang.
“Trump’s conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump’s mind of his own political interests and U.S. national interests. Trump commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security. I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” Bolton writes in the book.
Excerpts from the book were published in the Wall Street Journal and other US dailies on Wednesday even as the White House attempted to muzzle Bolton with legal threats.
In an insider look at Trump’s whimsical and transactional conduct while engaging Xi, to the point of bartering away US national and global interests for his personal re-election gain, Bolton first describes the Buenos Aires G-20 summit where Trump met Xi in an engagement which the U.S President saw “as the meeting of his dreams, with the two big guys getting together, leaving the Europeans aside, cutting the big deal.”
“Xi began by telling Trump how wonderful he was, laying it on thick. Xi read steadily through note cards, doubtless all of it hashed out arduously in advance. Trump ad-libbed, with no one on the U.S. side knowing what he would say from one minute to the next,” Bolton writes, with the following stunning disclosure. “One highlight came when Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the US had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly.”
In their next meeting in Osaka in June 2019, Bolton writes that “Xi told Trump that the US-China relationship was the most important in the world. He said that some (unnamed) American political figures were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war with China.”
“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 that Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility to China among the Democrats. Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and 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,” Bolton writes.
“I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise,” he adds.
Bolton also writes about Trump’s handling of the threats posed by the Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE, a matter in which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other “China hawks” repeatedly pushed to strictly enforce U.S. regulations and criminal laws against fraudulent conduct. By contrast, Bolton says, Trump saw this not as a policy issue to be resolved but as an opportunity to make personal gestures to Xi. In 2018, for example, Trump reversed penalties that Ross and the Commerce Department had imposed on ZTE. In 2019, he offered to reverse criminal prosecution against Huawei if it would help in the trade deal—which, of course, was primarily about getting Trump re-elected in 2020.
“These and innumerable other similar conversations with Trump formed a pattern of fundamentally unacceptable behavior that eroded the very legitimacy of the presidency. Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different,” he writes.
Bolton also relates that Trump inaccurately dismissed the Tienanmen Square massacre as something that that happened 15 years ago, quoting him as saying, “Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal. I don’t want anything.” And on the demonstrations in Hong Kong: “I don’t want to get involved,” and, “We have human-rights problems too.”
Beijing’s repression of its Uighur citizens also proceeded apace during the Trump administration, Bolton writes, relating how at the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang, and “according to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
He also says Trump was “particularly dyspeptic about Taiwan, having listened to Wall Street financiers who had gotten rich off mainland China investments.” One of Trump’s favorite comparisons was to point to the tip of one of his Sharpies and say, “This is Taiwan,” then point to the historic Resolute desk in the Oval Office and say, “This is China.”
“So much for American commitments and obligations to another democratic ally,” Bolton writes.