Why would a Harvard PhD economist and tenured university professor make ridiculous assertions about China that no self-respecting economist would claim ownership of?
This question is hanging over prominent China-basher and director of the White House National Trade Council, Peter Navarro.
I went for answers to Professor John Graham, who had been Navarro’s colleague at the University of California at Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business. He joined the faculty in 1989, the same year as Navarro. Now that Navarro has left to join the Trump administration, Graham has taken over Navarro’s course on China.
“I am not sure I know why,” Graham said. “In sum, the three books he’s written about China are xenophobic trash. They contain some truths, but Navarro cherry-picks the data to prove his points. Ultimately it’s nothing but yellow journalism.”
Graham went on to say, “Navarro has no first-hand familiarity of China, doesn’t show any understanding of China and doesn’t speak Chinese. When asked how many times he’s been to China, he evades and doesn’t answer.”
A former UC Irvine professor and colleague confirmed this, saying, “He generally avoided people who actually knew something about the country.”
Needed help to teach a course on China
After publishing several China-related books, Navarro decided to create his own course on China relations, named “China and the Global Order.” When Benjamin Leffel, a China specialist and sociology PhD student at UC Irvine, became aware of Navarro’s writings, he reached out to him and questioned his views.
The meeting led to Navarro asking Leffel to act as the counterweight in his China class. Leffel created most of the syllabus using respected academic material in China studies, Navarro’s contribution being his own book and documentary.
Leffel wanted to throw out Navarro’s materials; Navarro did not agree. (After Navarro joined the Trump administration, Leffel and Graham discarded his material from the syllabus.) Despite such a frontal disagreement, Navarro kept Leffel as his instructor and teaching assistant, who in fact did most of the teaching – and who exhaustively corrected the falsehoods and exaggerations found in Navarro’s material.
I asked Leffel how he would summarize his experience working with Navarro. He said: “It was a tense but successful exercise in working with someone with radically different views, something we need now more than ever.”
Graham speculated that perhaps Navarro was motivated by TV exposure; his books and video documentary were calculated to get him media attention. That was an insightful observation.
Peter Navarro – Gordon Chang wanna-be?
Indeed, Navarro may have taken a page from Gordon Chang’s playbook. Chang published The Coming Collapse of China in 2001. In view of China quadrupling the size of its economy since that publication, Chang should have eggs all over his face.
Instead, Navarro can see that his friend became a media darling and is frequently interviewed about his views on China. The so-called fake-news people, those we would otherwise consider as mainstream media, know that they can always count on Chang to give a colorful and negative point of view about China.
Navarro has taken China-bashing as the road to success to another level. He writes better than Chang, is more telegenic and has resources to tap that are not available to Chang. The Nucor Foundation gave him US$1 million to turn his book into a documentary, which he then premiered from coast to coast in the US.
Chang attended those premieres and celebrated with selfies taken with Navarro. Sometime between Chang’s book in 2001 and Navarro’s Death by China in 2011, they have become fast friends.
To celebrate their friendship, Navarro even wrote an article in defense of Chang called “The revenge of Gordon Chang and The Coming Collapse of China?” The piece also appeared under a different title in The National Interest on May 7, 2016.
When it comes to China, Navarro is not driven by facts and has no desire to write with authenticity and scholarship. To my knowledge, none of his papers on China have been published in peer-reviewed, prestigious academic or professional journals.
During the 2016 presidential election, he co-authored with Wilbur Ross an economic plan for the upcoming administration of Donald Trump. A public letter from 370 economists, including 19 Nobel laureates, labeled the plan an unmitigated disaster.
Despite such condemnation, Navarro now stands as the key economic whisperer to President Trump.
A five-time loser in politics
In his earlier life, Navarro ran unsuccessfully for political office. He came within a whisker of becoming the mayor of San Diego, the second-largest city of California. That was his first attempt running for public office, and he led the all-party primary field with 38.2% of the votes.
In the general-election runoff in 1992, it was his election to lose – and lose he did. Running as an independent, he launched vicious attacks on his Republican opponent, Susan Golding, reducing her to tears in the last televised debate. The voters turned against Navarro.
He would run for various offices in San Diego four more times. Each time, his campaign tactics were nastier than the previous. Mudslinging was his standard procedure.
When Navarro was first announced as joining the Trump administration, The San Diego Union Tribune published a pointedly hostile review of his past association with the city. The headline read, “How many San Diego elections did Trump trade adviser Navarro lose?”
Charlie Cook, a nationally recognized political analyst, met Navarro once and vividly remembers him as one of the most obnoxious political candidates he has ever met. In one election post-mortem, Navarro admitted, “I don’t have any concerns at all about making stuff up about my opponent that isn’t exactly true.”
When asked why he began to pay attention to China, his reply was that it was that he had noticed some of his students were losing jobs to China. Factory workers might lose jobs when plants shut down, but MBA students don’t lose jobs to China. Nice try, Peter.
The news media are in part responsible for enabling a five-time political loser to join the inner sanctum of Trump’s White House. When Navarro spouts nonsense, it’s the responsibility of the media to challenge his assertions rather than giving him a free pass.
Now Navarro is part of the team steering US economic policy. It’s too early to tell whether he will be a mere transitory blip in history or an unmitigated disaster as feared by many. If Trump really listens to him, only the Almighty can save us. Trump has just announced tariff duties on up to $60 billion worth of goods from China. That’s not an encouraging development.
Any knowledgeable person capable of critical thinking should be able to see through Navarro after listening to him for 30 minutes — a charlaton, academic impostor, crude liar, and propagandist for hire.
NO worries the WORLD saw a lot of guy’s like mr. Navarro trying to predict CHINA’S future ….they all got it WRONG …the WEST still insists that only they are clever , and have the brain’s to know first hand …( thats exactly what every mother tell’s the son …you the most handsome baby !!).
Trump is promoting people like bolton, pompeo and now navarro to be used as negotiation intimidation.. and at the same time, eventually, to be rid of them.
Why the ruling class in the US let Navarro become part of the Trump administration,taking into account that Trump is only in one way or another a puppet president of the ruling class in the US ?
He is promoting those people that the ruling class in the US fully approves of it.
The ruling class in the US and its puppet president known as Trump, are all bent on same warfare with China, to stop the Chinese beforte they become the n.1.
Why don’t you chinese try douse this India China rivalry strated by China. Do a strategic retreat from assertive aggressive creditor imperialism based foreign policy for the time being and work with the entire world who are staring down us china trade war. New feuds will hurt you and others remember.
Rudi Matich That ruling class has erred. They miscalculated believing China will come to the table after Trumps $60b tariff memorandum. Today,according to Global Times,Secretary Mnuchin called Deputy Premier Liu He and he replied that there no negotiation as long as the sanction is on and also that ‘China has the means and will to defend her interest’. Trump is stuck. US has no alternative to Chinese (Walmart)goods anywhere in the world.China has Brazil and Argentina for her soya bean.I am waiting for Trump/US climb down from his swagger.This will mark the beginning of Chinese economic supremacy.
Good piece. But there may be a more sinister explanation. Trump is stirring up the system in preparation for the end game of the Muller investigation.
Another know-nothing leftie. Probably teaching students to base their logic on feelings…Agree this is a good piece. disagree on Trump. There was no russia collusion between him or his campaign but there certainly was obviously collusion to cover for the Clintons and to set up Trump. All fostered by Obama’s corrupt organization.
Navarro, Bolton and Trump all play to the press. Guess who will get fired if he tries to upstage the boss. The show will go on!
Interesting read; hope more people can get this information.
Well it doesn’t matter now. With all these warmonger folks in Trump’s war cabinet, we are all going to die. First he will attack Iran and next North Korea. The next thing you know you will see mushrooms clouds all over the world. We are doom.
An interesting read. I read Gordon Chang’s “Coming Collapse of China in 2001” and Navarro’s by 2011. Hope he do better job from now on.
One commentator elsewhere in Asia Times described China as “socialist meritocracy” – an attempt to put makeup on a pig if I ever saw one. The simple truth to the matter is that 1. There is no political freedom in China – you can get jailed and disappear for publicly condemming the government. 2. China has shown a increasingly belligerant stance toward any nation voicing opposition to what appears to be expansionist policies. As such China poses a potential threat to freedom all over Asia. Its deja vue all over again / China is increasingly looking like Japan of the 1930s. The irony is sickening.
Trump himself is an artist. He plays China card for election. He tapped white and low income American’s angry to win over their votes, by attacking established elites in society. And now he needs China card to stable the voters by blaming China’s stealing of American jobs. Therefore, he hires Navarro as gun man to shoot China, no matter right and wrong. Only he could fan up the flame of hatred to catch the attention of voters for the coming election. Of course, Trump knows Navarro is not a China hand. After the election, he would play the card of Navarro , let him take all the blames for wrong policy towards China, and "You are fired" again, as so many White House aids have been treated. Then he would easily hire a China friendly person to stop the trade war. He himself would pay high profile visit to Beijing to prepare his reelection. I am not worried about Sino-US trade relation.
Donald Richards an Indian in white manas name. Or a white man in Indian mentality. Either, a delusional loser.
Navarro, as mentioned in this article, had been a failed politician. It also happens that he is a professor. He uses his professor status as his politcal platform. Politics is never equivalent to truth. In this democratic America, there exist a large conservative group of people. That is how Trump got elected. This conservsative group is the mainstay of America conserving the traits of their forebearers. We all know that Americans have been waging wars very so often in its long history, past, present, forever, ever since the First Americans set feet on the East Coast. This fighting-to-kill spirit, whether military,politically or economically, called zero-sum game, will never die and is again manifested in the hawkish group of people in the present administration. Navarro just happens to have this spirit. This fightinh-to-kill spirit is self destructive and is ominous to the survival of the human race.
Navarro has been accusing China of exporting junk to the US while the US exports only good stuff. Actually, it is the other way. For many, many years, the US exported wastes/garbage to China thus polluting China’s environment and the Chinese people, and China converted these pollutants into good stuff for reexport to the US.
Now China has banned the imports of wastes/garbage having given a 6 months notice in July 2015, and the US instead of preparing for it, is now blaming China for the accumulation of garbage on US soil. " Blame China " is the favourite mantra. The US is urging China to continue importing wastes so that china can be polluted and the US be kept clean How shameless.
Now, Navarro can enjoy the aroma of good US garbage, but, it won’t happen because the US will dump its garbage onto another third world country, notably, countries in SE Asia.
The US exports, among other products, poisonous, glyphosate resistant soya bean crop to China, poisoning the people and livestock. All these are good stuff.
I’m fascinated that you think there was no collusion with Russia. Where do you get your news?
This is a great piece, Dr.Koo. I’m hoping this will be another string of hire-em, fire-em employees that have stepped momentarily into the White House. Will try to find a way to share this information on my blog.
Just emphasizing, Navarro, being a failed politician, shouts like one, not like an objective economist. Frustrated in his political ambitions, he needs to release his frustration on other targets.
And, yes, that is why the the 3rd world, including the 2 billion muslims plus 150 million Russians hate the US because the US does not give a tom-tit when it bullshits and shits on others.
Comments are closed.