President Xi Jingping
Credit: 2015 Alabastro Photography/Flickr

I have already written about my skepticism that Donald Trump turned on a dime during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago last week and that the two of them have now developed a “warm rapport.” That is mainly based on the fact that the president is a congenital liar. But I’ve always felt that there was something fishy about his demonization of China during the campaign. Then came this little tidbit in the Steele dossier that seems to have been completely ignored:

Commenting on the negative media publicity surrounding alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election campaign in support of Trump, Source E said he understood that the Republican candidate and his team were relatively relaxed about this because it deflected media and the Democrats’ attention away from Trump’s business dealings in China and other emerging markets. Unlike in Russia, these were substantial and involved the payment of large bribes and kickbacks which, were they to become public, would be potentially very damaging to their campaign.

Since Trump’s election, we’ve seen several things happen that raise serious questions about who is pulling whose strings when it comes to this president’s relationship with China. They are worth taking a look at.

First of all, there are the Trump trademarks that have been approved in China. Today we learn that it is not only the president who is benefiting. His daughter Ivanka got approval for three new trademarks the same day she participated in the dinner with President Xi at Mar-a-Lago.

But it’s worth asking what China wants from Trump. That question might have been partially answered soon after the election with this:

President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to goose infrastructure spending will offer strong investment opportunities, said Ding Xuedong, chairman of China’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp. (CIC).

“Trump calls for expansionary fiscal policy and more investments in U.S. infrastructure. The upgrades and the expansion mean massive investment,” Ding told CNBC in translated comments. “The U.S. government doesn’t have the money, private investors in the U.S. don’t have the money and this is where the foreign investors come in.”

The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute has ranked CIC as the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund by assets under management, with around $813.8 billion.

Ding, speaking on the sidelines of the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong this week, saw a natural fit between Chinese investors and Trump’s infrastructure plans, expressing little concern over the president-elect’s “America first” rhetoric.

That provides some context for what we learned recently about Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager who seems to have a nose for money and political corruption, and is now advising a Chinese billionaire on how to win construction contracts from the proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

A few weeks ago Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao talked to Sean Hannity about Trump’s “innovative” ideas on how to finance investments in infrastructure. She is selling the idea of private investments and at about the 1:50 mark of this video seems to have trouble covering up her tendency to want to talk about “foreign investments.” You’ll want to listen to the end to hear Hannity lay out the profit motive for these investors.

Finally, it is interesting to note the two men Trump has chosen to advise him about his infrastructure plan. They are both Manhattan real estate developers, one of whom, Steven Roth, was involved with Jared Kushner in the proposed deal with China to bail out his Fifth Avenue skyscraper.

Other than infrastructure, it is important to note that China benefited from Trump’s promise to pull out of the Transpacific Partnership agreement the Obama administration negotiated. TPP’s demise opened the door for expansion of their Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which excludes the U.S. and sets up China to be the region’s undisputed hegemon.

To date, Donald Trump has doubled back on his initial rhetoric calling into question the One China policy, promising to label China as a currency manipulator, and promising to punish China for its trade practices. He claims to have developed a “warm rapport” with China’s president. Some of those changes actually indicate positive developments. But did he turn on a dime, or was his campaign rhetoric simply bluster that covered up something more nefarious that could have long-term consequences for our country? Those are important questions that warrant our attention.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.