President Donald Trump has led his country into the trenches against China in a trade war which has infuriated Chinese business. Punitive duties against aluminium, motorcycles, antennas and diesel are hurtling across no man’s land, and peace palavers are stalling. In the good old days, when communists were communists, the Party would have retaliated by drafting a denunciation, to be displayed at all provincial headquarters. Something like: “Effete, vapid, orange plutocrat beset by scarlet women dares to hurl tariffs at Chinese aluminium workers, who will consign him to the dungheap of history.”
But the Chinese have said goodbye to all that, and hello to Starbucks. The made-over Party has responded through state media, by exporting a satirical video made in China, in which Trump is thanked for making the Middle Kingdom great again. There is some truth in this. The more Trump alienates allies in the West, the more readily would they enter China’s ever-widening sphere of influence. And the closer he comes to being impeached, the more China’s clout will grow.
The video, produced by the English-language China Global Television Network and presented by business news anchor Cheng Lei, showed visuals of Trump displaying a range of absurd facial expressions. All images were either artwork or shot in the wild, banking on Trump’s natural talent and without the intervention of Photoshop. Three minutes long, it thanked Trump for driving investors like Tesla to its markets with the trade war, and for protecting public health in China by reducing access to bourbon and bacon. We must speak of the video in the past tense, for it was taken off YouTube and Sina Weibo, China’s social media giant, shortly before the latest round of trade talks in Washington. Was it a dummy run, then? Is the real thing yet to come?