When the news broke that President Donald Trump was chiding the Commerce Department for sanctioning a Chinese tech company, ZTE, everything about the move was puzzling. ZTE epitomized why the Trump administration was taking a harder line against Beijing.
ZTE sold products containing U.S. products to Korea and Iran, and then tried to cover it up. The FCC has prohibited U.S. carriers from buying equipment made by ZTE, for fear of hidden “back doors” that could spy or introduce malware.
Yet Trump suddenly undercut his cabinet department last week with a mysterious tweet:
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
Why on earth would Trump undermine his government’s own policy? One likely explanation soon became clear. On Tuesday, The National Review reported:
The Chinese government is extending a $500 million loan to a state-owned construction company to build an Indonesian theme park that will feature a Trump-branded golf course and hotels.
A subsidiary of Chinese state-owned construction firm Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) signed a deal last week with the Indonesian firm MNC Land to build an “integrated lifestyle resort,” as part of Beijing’s global influence-expanding “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative.
The project will include a number of Trump-branded hotels, a golf course, and a residence. While the $500 million loan will not be directly allocated to any of the Trump-branded features, Beijing’s contribution of half the project’s total operating budget ensures the success of the broader theme-park venture.
This is not an explicit quid pro quo, of course, but Trump’s habits of subordinating the national interest to the profits of his family businesses continue. First Russia, now China. There’s a simple word for these habits: treason.