Asia Times: Steve Bannon, you were President Trump’s key strategist in 2016. I’d like to ask you first, how do you see the 2020 election shaping up? And as a follow-up question, what advice would you give to President Trump this time on how to conduct his campaign?
Bannon: I stepped in as CEO on mid-August down, I don’t know, eight, 10, 12, 14 points, depending on the poll you were looking at the time. But, David, there are only two numbers, as I told him over that weekend, that mattered.
And one was right track-wrong track. The country was still saying that two-thirds thought the country was on the wrong track. And the other was Pat Caddell’s very important research called the Smith Project that showed that middle-class and working-class Americans for the first time in our country’s history felt the country is on the decline by a majority and that the elites didn’t care about it.
Trump already had it. He had been running on it, just got a little off focus. He had to go back and refocus on running against Hillary Clinton as a globalist who is part of that cadre, that that was at the cutting edge of the management of the country in four years.
Trump has been fighting in DC since the beginning against the managed decline of the country. And I think this is shaping up to be even more of a fight of the kind of nationalist versus globalist.
I think China will be at the centerpiece of that. The Democrats could not have selected a worse candidate to make an argument to the American people than Joe Biden. So I think 2020 is really a continuation almost of 2016. We still have not worked through these issues. Remember, the campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.”
I said that that is going to be a generational struggle. You’re not going to wave a magic wand. I think 2020 is shaping up in the last 150 days to be just this classic counter of the globalism of Joe Biden and the Wall Street faction of the Democratic Party versus the economic nationalism and populism of Trump and potentially some slice of the Bernie [Sanders] contingent.
Asia Times: Now, there has been an apparent drop in Trump’s numbers in the polls in the past couple of weeks since the uproar over the death of George Floyd. Do you have any thoughts about how the civil unrest and protests are going to influence voters between now and November?
Bannon: That’s why I think I’m honored to be given an interview in the Asia Times, which is such an important voice and platform in Asia. I believe the 21st century is the Asian century, the Pacific century. And that’s why, as a young man, I left home and went to the Pacific fleet. I’ve had a great affinity for the Pacific, a great affinity for Asia. And now is the Asia moment.
I actually think the numbers were dropping even before the murder of Mr Floyd by these former police officers. I think it’s directly tied to China. I think there first was the pandemic, then the pandemic triggered an economic crisis. That was twofold.
One was the drop in aggregate demand. The other was that the supply chains, both the medical supply chains and the underlying manufacturing supply chains. And that triggered a financial crisis. Remember, the only way we’ve gotten through – we’ve bridged this essentially with a $6 trillion bazooka by the Federal Reserve, which is unheard of in American history.
It’s already started to raise the issues of the concentration of wealth that we saw happen after President [Barack] Obama’s solution to the 2008 financial crisis. We may have had this turbocharged in this [situation]. So these issues preceded Mr Floyd’s murder.
And I would actually argue that many of the aspects of Mr Floyd’s murder are driven also by the CCP [Communist Party of China]. Think about it. Mr Floyd was murdered by these police officers. However, we now know from the autopsy he had Covid-19, which came from the CCP. Whether it came from a lab or part of a biological weapons program is beside the point.
We know that they didn’t take the actions they should have taken back in December when they knew about this. So Mr Floyd had Covid-19. He also had fentanyl in his system. Fentanyl is the drug the CCP is pushing through the cartels up to the upper Midwest, particularly all those areas where, guess what, all the manufacturing jobs are gone. Mr Floyd never had access to a great manufacturing job.
The last thing is that Mr Floyd was called upon because he appeared to be inadvertently passing a phoney $20 bill. If it turns out the CCP, they just captured on the Canadian border back in January, $900,000. Now, they weren’t 20s but they were counterfeit currency.
So the converging forces of Asia led to Mr Floyd’s current situation, his life, that he was sick. He had drugs in his system. He didn’t have a great job. And he was passing counterfeit money. All four of those come from Beijing, essentially.
This confrontation with the Chinese Communist Party, I believe, will be the single defining aspect of 2020. And yes, I think for President Trump, because I think he’s just getting the sea legs now. Focusing on the law and order aspect of this, he was kind of quiet for the first week, as are the poll numbers.
His poll numbers are not great. Nobody can deny that. The Detroit Free Press has Joe Biden up 14 points in Michigan. CNN has Biden up nationally by 14 points. CNN has the intensity level of Biden at its all-time high at 60%.
These are big numbers. It’s going to be a real fight. Right now, the odds are against him, because it’s just where the numbers are. Nobody can deny that. However, I think economic war against the United States is going to be [at] the absolute center of this 2020 campaign.
Asia Times: But let me ask you a double question. First, what would you advise President Trump to do? And since we’re in a newspaper in Asia read by Asian governments, what would you advise the government of China to do?
Bannon: Well, I think that the government of China is a group of gangsters. I think the Chinese Communist Party is completely illegitimate. I think they are a group of gangsters. I think what they’ve done to the Chinese people is horrific.
I think what they’ve done as far as taking away the Chinese people’s freedom and what they’ve done with the Uighurs, the Tibetan Buddhists, the underground House Church Christians, the underground Catholic Church, the Falun Gong and the democracy movement is outrageous.
And they should be confronted at every level by every government – the governments of Taiwan and Japan and South Korea and India and Singapore to Vietnam. Every one of the governments in Asia essentially understands it has to be on watch about what the Chinese Communist Party is up to.
Which is always no good. You see right now in the South China Sea where they’ve militarized the [sea] and they’re pushing towards a kinetic confrontation. There you see on the border of India where they have 10,000 combat troops.
The Chinese Communist Party, to me, is the unfinished work of the 20th century. Now, what advice would I give President Trump here? I would advise to intensify that right now. The CCP is in a hot information/cyber war and a hot economic war against the United States. And they’ve been at that for a while.
And President Trump’s the only president in American history that has stood up to the Chinese Communist Party. And I think now is the time to even take it up a notch. And I think you’re seeing this across the United States government. I think you’re seeing a whole of government approach led by people like Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo. You can see now in Congress, you’ve got people like in the Senate, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley.
The American government and the American people are now engaged in this confrontation that the Chinese Communist Party has had against the country. And I think for President Trump, my recommendation would be: You’ve done an amazing job so far. You stood up to the CCP. They’re not backing down, although I say they’re a group of criminals. I’ve never said they’re not very smart and they’re very tough. And so I keep saying that Hong Kong is Austria in 1938.
And we know if you don’t stand up to these dictatorships, what happens? They never stop and they never blink. So that’s why Hong Kong, I think, is in such a particularly volatile situation. And I believe that the United States right now and President Trump should pull the underlining trade agreements, anything that allows any kind of fair trade, I think, to sanction the companies that do business with the CCP in Hong Kong.
And I think you ought to sanction the banks. I think you ought to make it impossible for the Chinese Communist Party to use Hong Kong as a capital market, which they’ve done for many decades.
Asia Times: In other words, you’re saying that the United States financial system should sanction Hong Kong at a level that we sanction, for example, Iran.
Bannon: Even more so, I think. I don’t think we’ve done even a good enough job. We’ve allowed a lot. I don’t think we’ve ever done the type of secondary sanctions in a war that could choke down the mullahs immediately. Let’s face it, Iran and China, the CCP, are partners.
And that’s one of the reasons the CCP spreads its darkness throughout the Middle East and particularly against our great ally, Israel. Iran is a is a mortal enemy of the Israeli people. Iran, the mullahs, are in business with the CCP.
The CCP keeps them going between the oil purchases and the loans. That’s what keeps the mullahs on the lifeline. And I think actually our sanctions in Hong Kong should be even tougher. We got to have real secondary sanctions that choke down the financial system.
My recommendation is quite simple. The Chinese Communist Party should be cut off from all avenues of Western capital and they should be cut off from all avenues of Western technology.
Here’s the reason. In the spring of May 2020, basically a year ago, the Chinese Communist Party, after the One Belt, One Road conference, made a decision to decouple from the West technologically. They made a decision to go on their own technology standards virtually at the same time.
They had [Chinese Vice-Premier] Liu He tell [US Special Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer we can’t sign the Lighthizer deal that Lighthizer worked for under President Trump for 18 months. That deal would have totally integrated the system in China into the world’s economic system. They made a conscious decision to decouple from the West.
In the spring of 2019 the subsequent deal they cut, the trade deal, was just a deal that made sure they had access to agricultural products and to do some some stuff on IP [intellectual property] reform.
[That was] after seeing how successful the rollout of One Belt, One Road was on the rollout of 5G, of quantum computing, under Huawei was going. And after seeing how they were winning on Made in China 2025, the convergence of advanced chip design of robotics, artificial intelligence and maybe even biotechnology. They believe they had a winning hand in 2019 and that Donald Trump was the only obstacle.
They would not give Trump the big victory and basically signed what they considered a treaty from the 19th century with the West. It was no more kowtowing to the West, but they made a decision to decouple since that time. They have been, I believe, engaged in information and economic war against the West.
Their entire focus is going to be to control the Eurasian landmass with their partners Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Russia. And once they’ve done that, at the same time, pushing, pushing the West, pushing the United States to back off of the Eurasian landmass into the Pacific, at least a thousand miles back to Guam.
Only at that time will they, would they then start to focus on Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and in the Western Hemisphere to become a global head. They will consolidate the Eurasian landmass first. And I think they’re well down the path of trying to do this.
The only way to stop is … I think you’re seeing a nascent alliance with Japan, with Australia, with India, with Vietnam, with the little nations of [and] around the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. And I think that that coalition will sort this out.
Asia Times: Special Trade Representative Lighthizer spoke recently before the Economic Club of New York. He said that he was comfortable with the “phase one” trade deal and he praised the Chinese for making progress on structural reforms. The tone we’re hearing from Mr Lighthizer is quite different. It’s more conciliatory. What is the state of play in the administration?
Bannon: President Trump is trying to work with the Chinese Communist Party and trying to work out a confrontation that leads to an accommodation that works for both. Lighthizer is a good man. He’s been a fabulous trade representative and really has been President Trump’s best partner.
He and [White House economic adviser] Peter Navarro are getting this done. And I think to the degree that he feels comfortable talking in public because he’s been working with the reformer group, which is led by Liu He, to try to do some modicum amount of structural changes. That comes from the IP concerns and obviously the big agriculture purchase.
But we’ll have to see. You know, Forbes magazine is reporting today that [it] doesn’t look like China is going to live up to the terms of the trade deal, doesn’t live up to the agricultural purchases because they can’t financially or they don’t have the demand or they’re just going to not do it. We don’t know yet. But I think Lighthizer, who is a terrific guy, is putting the best face on it.
The reality is he negotiated an incredibly serious deal over 18 months of continuous negotiation with the reformer group led by Liu He, and took care of the seven deadly sins of the Chinese economy, including the continual funding of state-owned industries and exporting deflation and overcapacity throughout the world and forced technology transfers across the board.
All seven were taken care of. You had both visibility. You had accountability. And you had enforceability. So they had the three legs of the stool to actually make a treaty that really worked. And I think this is why the hardliners and the ultra-hawks in China made the decision to decouple on a technology basis because they didn’t want to be in a situation where ZTE or Huawei would be in a position that the West has leverage over them.
They decided to back out of true structural reform of the Chinese economy. Bob Lighthizer knows that this is what the Chinese walked away from. The deal we have today is nowhere near what that is. Remember, President Trump is the one that I think is most in shock about what [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] did.
He sent over a team to sign, that signed a document on the 12th, 13th, 14th of January. At the time they knew that they had an epidemic in Hebei province already that was leading to a pandemic. So I think that he has been quite disappointed. And I think Bob Lighthizer is putting the best face on [it], as he should.
Asia Times: So from our standpoint, it’s possible to get back to a situation that we had before January in which there was an understanding that certain reforms would take place.
Bannon: Hang on, hang on. Hang on, hang on. Hang on, hang on. Hang on, hang on. Let me disagree with something. I don’t think Lighthizer or anybody thinks that there’s a possibility to get back to that.
May I say it was May 3 of 2019 when they announced unilaterally [that] basically they weren’t going to sign it. I don’t think Lighthizer, Navarro, anybody, [National Economic Council Chairman Larry] Kudlow, [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin, anybody in the US government thinks there’s any chance that we will get back to the May 2019 deal.
Let’s be brutally frank. That’s the only deal that’s going to work. If you don’t fully integrate [China] into the world economy, and you don’t do it with visibility on what’s going on, accountability and enforceability, it’s never going to work. And if you can’t get back to that deal, we may struggle through some half-measures. And look, it’s a noble effort that Lighthizer is doing. I refer to Bob Lighthizer as the tragic figure of this story, because he kind of gambled everything and had a deal that I think would have led to global prosperity and peace.
And the Chinese Communist Party made a conscious decision to say no to that deal. In doing so, and decoupling technologically from the West with their own set of standards that are rolled out over the next couple of years, they have basically said we’re going to go our own way and we are determined to become a hegemon in Asia and then to become a global hegemon.
Asia Times: What’s your advice? If you were to give advice to the government of China, listening to you here, we would hear: “Go back to where you were in May.”
Bannon: My advice to the government [of China] is quite simple. Dissolve yourself. Declare immediately that you’re going to go to democratic institutions and a democratic form of government – to immediate land reform, to immediate personal property reform. Tear down the firewall. Allow the great and noble Chinese people to finally be free.
It is outrageous in the 21st century, in starting the third decade of the 21st century, that the Chinese people, of all people on Earth, do not have free, unfettered access to the Internet, do not have land reform, do not have personal property rights, do not have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion.
It is stunningly outrageous. And hundreds of years from now, when they look back at this time, when the Chinese people eventually have their freedom, they will be stunned that the global elites of the world, the party of Davos, the intellectual, the cultural, the financial and the corporate elites allowed this to happen and supported enslaving the Chinese people. People would be stunned, just like your children, when they look back over time and say, how could people have slaves?
Well, here the Chinese people are basically under the last dictatorship of the 20th century. And the world’s global elites are the ones that have been their business partners. And to me, it’s stunning. So my advice to the Chinese can be very simple. Dissolve immediately, turn into a China. It’s a democratic country. Let people vote one man, one vote. Tear down the firewall and just let them [have the] basic human rights that other people have.
Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. And just let it rip. And China will become an amazingly prosperous, healthy and happy country over the coming decades.
Asia Times: The United States issued a national security strategy last month in which it said that the United States still holds to the one China policy and specifically said that the United States does not seek regime change in China. So are you suggesting that we should change that policy and our official policy should be regime change?
Bannon: In fact, I am an adviser to this new government that’s been formed, of the new Federal State of China, which is a collection of high-net-worth individuals and sports and cultural figures throughout the world, expatriates that advocate for taking down the CCP. It’s obvious that the Chinese Communist Party is at war with their people, at war with the United States, as we know from unrestricted warfare.
Their view of war is very sophisticated. It deals in information deals and cyber deals and economics and kinetic. There’s certainly not a kinetic war. But more importantly, they’re conducting an information hot war. And an economic war. It’s not the US that has forced their hand or demanded. But I don’t think that the Chinese people can be prosperous and free, I don’t think Asia can be free, until we’ve had regime change in Beijing. And I am an absolute advocate of that.
Asia Times: Well, Steve, as a practical matter, cutting off Chinese trade would have pretty severe consequences for a number of places in Asia. Roughly 60% of all Asian trade is inside Asia. South Korea – China is its largest trading partner, exports twice as much to China as it does to the United States. How do we know that the Asian littoral wouldn’t stick with its biggest trading partner, namely China?
Bannon: One simple fact is that they understand that if they make that decision inside the CCP’s sphere of influence, eventually their freedoms will be gone. They will be a hard tributary state. And I don’t believe that even with an economic speed bump or two, that any of the free countries and all areas of Asia will consciously make that decision.
From Vietnam to South Korea to Japan, the Philippines, to India, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia – all of them understand right now that it may be a better economic relationship, but if they make that deal, if they make that deal, that eventually they are immediately a tributary of the CCP and then eventually their freedoms will be gone. And I don’t think one of those countries would ever do that to their people.
Asia Times: Certainly none of the Asian countries would like to have to make that choice. I think most of them probably would prefer the status quo.
Bannon: The status quo is not sustainable because the CCP is not allowing it to be. The CCP, that’s the aggressor, not the West, and certainly not the free nations of Asia. It is the CCP that is the aggressor here.
Asia Times: Let’s go back to the US election for a second. Is this a message that President Trump could explain to the American people? And it is a winning message for November for him?
Bannon: I think it’s definitely a winning message. I think whoever convinces the American people that they can confront the Chinese Communist Party now and stop their actions will be, will be the winner. And I think that’s why Joe Biden is so weak.
Let’s be brutal. It was President Obama who said my foreign policy is going to be the “pivot” to Asia. Right. He was deputized to do that. Because remember, President Obama ran as a populist anti-war candidate in the primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire. That’s one of the reasons he beat Hillary Clinton and the Wall Street faction that controls the Democratic Party.
They didn’t think Obama had enough international experience. That’s why Joe Biden was put on that. He has been head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for, what, 20, 25 years, into every debacle we’ve ever had, every terrible treaty ever made.
Biden was deputized by Obama to be the wingman on the “pivot” to Asia. And it’s an unmitigated disaster. The deal that Xi came over and signed, I think, this fall on the 14
th of September, the state visit, it talked about no more cyber intrusions and demilitarization of the South China Sea – it was all a lie. There were more cyber intrusions six months after than there were before. And in the end, the militarization of the South China Sea continued unabated.
Joe Biden failed Obama and failed the country at every step of the way of his relationship of negotiating the relationship between America and China. One of the reasons we’re in this jam today is President Trump had this debacle handed to him by the Obama administration.
And remember the entire apparatus – I don’t call it the deep state because it’s up in your face – the entire apparatus is focused on the Middle East. There was Trump’s great heroic effort with this team. He brought in people from Navarro to Pompeo and shifted to a whole of government approach to the confrontation, to the Chinese Communist Party.
And so Biden has been a disaster since his advocacy of China in the WTO [World Trade Organization] and most favored nation status and all the trade deals, every terrible trade deal, everything that destroyed manufacturing in the upper Midwest. Joe Biden is not going to win because in the fall of 2020, the American people are not going to vote for pro-CCP fellow traveler globalists.
I hammer this point home just like I was the leading advocate of [emphasizing] the corruption and incompetence of Hillary Clinton that eventually stuck. President Trump made that his theme in the last 90 days of this campaign, to hammer her in the greatest come from behind [victory] in American political history.
I think the same thing will happen here. The American people don’t know Joe Biden’s record. In the last 150 days of this election they’re going to know chapter and verse. His record is horrific. And I’m not even including the corruption of his family and the money they’ve made with the CCP, the money they’ve made in private equity with the Chinese Communist Party, the companies they’ve invested in.
He, his son, the Bidens, are corrupt and they’re incompetent. They’ve sold out this country. He’s a fellow traveler running dog for the Chinese Communist Party. And I intend to spend every day of 150 left to remind the American people of exactly who he is and what he is doing.
Asia Times: There has been some speculation that you might become officially involved in 2020. Do you see any possibility of an official role for yourself?
Bannon: Zero. I’ve got so much activity on the outside. I’ve got my partner, Jason Miller, who is my partner on the [radio] show, just went to take a senior position in the campaign. I have many, many friends and colleagues who I think are going to go back and take a more active role.
I think President Trump will get around him a team with killers. One hundred and twenty percent of my time right now is spent on taking down the Chinese Communist Party, with the Committee on the Present Danger. The Rule of Law Society, now the new Federal State of China. I have a great affinity for the Chinese people. Great love for China. And it’s kind of my life’s work now. President Trump, I love the guy.
I support him every day. I support his work. I do everything on the outside. I have a two-hour TV show that goes everywhere. I think they’ve got the right team, I think, to bring in the right people. And I will be there hammering on the outside. And quite frankly, I think, I think I can be more effective in specifically going after Joe Biden on the outside of the campaign than I could running the campaign.
So I think he’s in good hands. I think they’re very focused. I think this is shaping up to be exactly the race he wants to run. And it’s all they have to do is get on with it.
Asia Times: Steve Bannon, you have been extremely generous with your time. There’s one last question I want to raise. You spoke before about the impressive progress that China has made in terms of One Belt, One Road, in terms of telecommunications technology and many other areas in which they’ve invested.
As you know, the last People’s Congress authorized $2.2 trillion of investment in high-tech R&D. The United States, as you pointed out, is spending $6 trillion to stabilize financial markets. But I haven’t seen any discussion of a similar American approach to fostering high-tech to compete with China. How long can we throw our weight around to try to stop China without building up our own capacity?
Bannon: Look, I don’t think it’s throwing our weight around. I said this is why the Asia Times is so important, because it was one of the most important media platforms for the free people of Asia. I think what the United States is doing is trying to refocus and make the center of gravity of its foreign policy and international relationships, the Pacific and Asia.
I knew this back in 1977 when I first got to China in the South China Sea and came into Hong Kong on a Navy combatant and that this was the place to be. It’s just so exciting. The people are so great. And all over Asia where I’ve gone. This is the Asian century. America is a Pacific power.
And so I think President Trump, what he’s done is shifted the center of gravity of our foreign policy from the Atlantic, from the old world, really to the new world. And I think it’s dynamic. I think it’s fantastic.
Remember, I said the CCP is evil. I never said they weren’t smart and tough. Okay. They’re very smart. And let’s be honest – no nation on earth has ever run a geopolitical strategy like they’ve done. They’ve taken the three great geopolitical theories of the 20th century and they’re the only nation on earth [that] is trying to do it all at one time.
They’re doing [Halford] MacKinder’s control, the Eurasian landmass, the One Belt, One Road. They’re doing [Alfred Thayer] Mahan’s naval strategy that the Royal Navy and the British Empire and the Americans inherited by cutting off, taking all trying to get control of all the naval choke points, of all the maritime choke points in the world. And they’re even doing [Nicholas John Spykman’s] rimland strategy by forcing the West, forcing the democracies, to a thousand miles off the rimland of Asia.
And I think in that regard, it shows you their geostrategic brains. They are evil, though. They’re evil. They are truly an evil empire, just like the Nazis, just like the fascists, just like the Soviets. There’s no difference. And here’s the reason: they’re a totalitarian dictatorship. They think nothing of the Chinese people.
You could tell that from what they did during the pandemic. Wouldn’t you care if 50 million people died in Hubei province? It’s always about the regime. It’s all about the regime’s material well-being. And so it’s not that they’re not smart.
And where they put their money is smart, I think. I’m an economic nationalist. I supported [former National Security Council staffer] General Spalding, when he came up with the idea of nationalizing the 5G system of the states. I was the leading advocate. I’m the leading advocate of breaking up big tech and making them public utilities.
I’m a big advocate of much more public investment into technology. So I think what the Chinese have done is quite smart. One of the great strategic advantages of the West are these capital markets. The CCP doesn’t have them. And the reason that the CCP doesn’t have them is that people understand they don’t believe in the rule of law. Hong Kong is the best example of it.
The most significant treaty they signed in their entire existence was the turnover of Hong Kong. Why? Because it didn’t deal in weapons. It didn’t deal in material stuff. It didn’t deal in trade. It dealt with human beings. It was basically trusting, what was it, six million living souls, to their care for 50 years in “one country, two systems.” And they absolutely lied about it and they proved that to the world. This is why it’s Austria in 1938.
They prove to the world that the CCP is good for nothing, that they stand for nothing except their own regime. And they are absolutely 100% against the free people, the world. And for the Asian people to be where they are today, to give that up to the Chinese Communist Party, would be one of the great outrages in history.
And so I think that freedom loving people, the United States people, want to confront the Chinese Communist Party and want to aid and assist the Chinese people, because only the Chinese people can overthrow the Chinese Communist Party. Nobody else can do that, but they can be assisted by well-meaning people throughout the rest of the world.
And that’s why my life’s work now is working on that very topic.
Asia Times: Steve Bannon, we thank you for this conversation.
This article originally appeared on AsiaTimes.