Donald Trump congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in ceremony in the White House on Jan. 22, 2017. Photo: AFP / Mandel Ngan

It was the Chinese book which triggered a trade war. After reading Unrestricted Warfare, former White House political adviser Steve Bannon came to the conclusion that China was waging an economic battle against the United States.

He was wrong, according to military strategist and co-author Qiao Liang.

Firing a verbal Exocet at the hardliners in Washington, he told the South China Morning Post:

“The US is declining because they have so many problems, which were all created by themselves, but they put the blame on China … because they are still using outdated and stupid imperialist thinking to judge China.”

Unrestricted Warfare impressed Bannon when he read it in 2010.

Penned by Qiao, a retired People’s Liberation Army officer, and former colleague Wang Xiangsui, who now teaches at Beihang University, the book has a simple premise.

Since they argued that no country could challenge the military might of the US through conventional means, the only option was to bog down the world’s superpower in economic and information warfare.

“The whole [Chinese] strategy is to avoid kinetic warfare and focus on information and economic [warfare],” Bannon said last year.

Recalling an early meeting with Trump during the presidential campaign, he raised the threat posed by China.

“I told him China has been engaging in an economic war against us for the past 20 or 25 years,” Bannon said and Trump “agreed” with him. Still, Qiao has dismissed this interpretation as “a misjudgment.” He also stressed that Trump’s attack on China was misguided.

“No major power has ever been totally replaced or devoured by another power,” he said. “A superpower’s fall was caused by its [own] decline.”

Yet this latest broadside from Qiao, a noted hawk in Beijing, comes at a time of rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

On Thursday, Vice-President Mike Pence accused China of military aggression, commercial theft and human rights violations as he cast the world’s second largest economy in the role of a bully.

His speech preceded a report by the Pentagon that China represents a “significant and growing risk” to the supply of materials vital to the US military.

The roughly 150-page document was seen by the Reuters news agency ahead of its formal release.

“A key finding of this report is that China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials and technologies deemed strategic and critical to US national security,” the report said.

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