US & Canada

Trump appoints China critic Peter Navarro to trade post

An advertisement for a magazine featuring US President-elect Donald Trump on the cover at a news stand in Shanghai, December 2016. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Donald Trump's election is attracting a great deal of interest in China

US President-elect Donald Trump has appointed economist Peter Navarro, a fierce critic of China, as the head of a new national trade body.

He will lead the White House National Trade Council, and serve as director of trade and industrial policy.

Mr Navarro advised Mr Trump during the campaign. His books include The Coming China Wars and Death by China.

Mr Trump has also named billionaire investor Carl Icahn to become a special adviser on regulatory reform.

Mr Icahn, who will not be a federal employee, has said that US businesses are being "crippled" by excessive regulations.

A statement from Mr Trump's transition team said the appointment of Peter Navarro showed his "determination to make American manufacturing great again".

During the election, the president-elect made trade issues a core campaign issue, criticising deals made with countries like China and Mexico.

Mr Trump has already angered China by speaking to the Taiwanese president by phone, in apparent contradiction with America's "one China" policy.

He has also criticised China on Twitter, recently accusing it of deliberately devaluing its currency, among other claims.

The latest move came as Chinese online retailer Alibaba was placed back on the US list of "notorious markets" over counterfeit goods sales.

Alibaba Group President Michael Evans questioned whether the move was "based on actual facts or influenced by the current political climate".

Image copyright University of California, Irvine
Image caption Mr Navarro is also an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine

Mr Navarro adapted his book Death by China into a documentary film narrated by Martin Sheen. It is available to watch for free on YouTube.

In its preamble, he urges viewers "help defend America and protect your family - don't buy 'Made in China'."

The film highlights the sustained loss of American manufacturing jobs at a time of Chinese economic growth, as well as the environmental impact of Chinese industry.

Many other economists, however, fear that aggressive moves against Chinese trade could prompt a trade war, with repercussions on both sides.

Peter Navarro - in his own words

  • In an article in March entitled "The Four Silver Bullets of Trumpnomics", he argued that China's "unfettered access" to US markets had cost the US economy more than 20 million new jobs
  • In May he said there were "growing signs that the collapse of China... may soon be at hand" and accused Beijing of illegal export subsidies, currency manipulation, intellectual-property theft and "sweatshop labour"
  • Writing in May, he said China's "military and civilian hackers seek to steal the obligatory blueprints and proprietary manufacturing processes of American businesses large and small", adding: "China's cyber spies will also vacuum up everything from emails, contact lists, and test results to pricing information"
  • He and another Trump adviser, Alexander Gray, reiterated in November that allowing China into the World Trade Organization had weakened America's manufacturing base "and ability to defend ourselves and our allies"
  • In another article, he accused China of "empire building" in the South China Sea by creating artificial islands as "fortress garrisons... in a coercive military machine".

The view from China - by BBC Monitoring

Chinese media highlight Mr Navarro's strongly held views and his earlier literature on China. Many mention his book, Death By China, which alleges that the US is threatened by China's economic dominance.

Shanghai-based website Observer Net says Mr Navarro is well known as "an economist who advocates a tough stance on China". Phoenix News calls him a "Taiwan-friendly official".

But media largely play down any major shake-ups between the two countries.

Popular news site The Paper quotes trade official Bai Ming as saying that "appointing Navarro will of course increase the pressure on Sino-US trade" but says that "the United States' own national interests" will also be taken into account.

Image copyright BBC Sport