Have you ever been around bullies?
They like to talk big around their friends, boasting about how they are going to crush their victim once they are face to face. But when they get the opportunity, they cower in fear and run away. That’s because bullies are nothing more than egomaniacs who love to mouth off. Deep inside, they are scared, insecure little rabbits that like to pick on others because it makes them feel better about themselves. But most of all, they just want to be admired.
Last week, during his first presidential visit to Beijing, Donald Trump showed the world just how much he craves the admiration of Chinese President Xi Jinping. And Xi played him like a fool.
All it took to woo Trump was a photo op with performers of the Peking Opera and dinner at the Forbidden City.
The meek and humble Donald Trump who showed up in Beijing was not the angry, loudmouthed Donald Trump who vowed during his presidential campaign to stand up to China on issues such as trade and North Korea.
Over the years, Trump has called China everything but a friend to America. He has accused the Chinese of taking our jobs, stealing our technology, manipulating currency and allowing their factories to become the biggest environmental polluters in the world.
Here are a few of the things Trump said about China on the campaign trail while trying to convince American voters that he that he had the guts to confront Xi over what he considered to be unfair trade practices.
“We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”
“China’s upset because of the way Donald Trump is talking about trade with China. They’re ripping us off, folks. It’s time. I’m so happy they’re upset.”
“We give state dinners to the heads of China. I said why are you doing state dinners for them? They’re ripping us left and right. Just take them to McDonald’s and go back to the negotiating table.”
Earlier this year, when North Korea announced that it was moving forward with its nuclear missile program, Trump again blamed China for failing to step up and reel in the rogue country. He tweeted:
“China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!”
Trump would have had us believe that he hated everything China stood for. But by the time he left Beijing, Xi had him thinking they were BFFs.
Instead of standing up to the Chinese, Trump went over there and blamed Americans.
During a joint news conference with Xi, Trump did say that China “must immediately address the unfair trade practices that drive” the large trade deficit. Then he added this qualifier.
“But I don’t blame China,” he said. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?”
“I give China great credit,” he added, as the Chinese audience broke out in applause.
As if it wasn’t clear to Xi that he really, really likes him, Trump provided this tweet later:
“I don’t blame China, I blame the incompetence of past Admins for allowing China to take advantage of the U.S. on trade leading up to a point where the U.S. is losing $100’s of billions. How can you blame China for taking advantage of people that had no clue? I would’ve done same!”
Apparently, it’s much easier to attack the Chinese on social media than it is to criticize them face to face.
So Trump cowered, which is exactly what bullies do.
You have to give Xi credit, though, for figuring out how to manipulate the leader of the free world so easily.
Xi rolled out the red carpet for Trump and first lady Melania Trump, something he didn’t do during President Barack Obama’s last visit during the G-20 Summit in 2016. When Obama landed, there weren’t even any steps in place for him to deplane Air Force One.
Trump was greeted with an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the plaza outside the Great Hall of the People. An honor guard played the U.S. and Chinese national anthems, and perfectly choreographed children waved U.S. and Chinese flags along the street as Trump’s motorcade went by.
Xi also gave Trump a treat that no other American president has ever received. After a private tour of the Forbidden City and a performance by the Peking Opera, the Trumps were honored with an official dinner inside Beijing’s ancient royal palace.
Thus, Trump became the first foreign leader to have an official dinner in the palace since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.
Take that, Obama!
There are no indications that Trump was able to wrangle any promises from Xi regarding North Korea or trade. But Xi might have succeeded in getting Trump to actually think he did.
Trump described his welcome to China as “truly memorable and impressive and something I will never forget.”
That’s good for a bully’s ego. But it does nothing to help the American people.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.