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Donald Trump

Trump is no dangerous idiot, as his nifty diplomacy on North Korea and China trade shows

Michael Chugani says despite heavy criticism, the US president’s gunslinging diplomacy has got the US where it wants to be – around the negotiating table with nuclear-armed North Korea, and outplaying China on trade

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 7:31am

Donald Trump a moron? Hardly. Far from being a moron, the US president is actually a pretty smart cookie. A smart cookie is what Trump called North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un. Recent events, unimaginable just months ago, show both are smart in very different ways.

Kim is a calculating chameleon who can order the ruthless murder of his uncle and brother yet charm Chinese leader Xi Jinping into thawing the chill between them. Trump is no murderer but is cocksure smart, a cowboy-style leader with his finger on the trigger. He figuratively shoots first and asks questions later. Kim shoots first and doesn’t ask questions.

Kim and Xi take centre stage in a Korean diplomatic drama

Former US president Jimmy Carter last week indirectly called Trump a jerk during an American TV interview. I agree. But that doesn’t mean jerks can’t be smart. It was big-time jerk Harvey Weinstein’s smarts that elevated him to the dizzying heights of Hollywood from where he took sexual advantage of women.

Trump-bashing, led by America’s liberal media, is now a global sport. Despite daily bashing, Trump’s poll numbers show his voter base remains solid. How come a narcissist, misogynist, bigot and bully can command such loyalty? Smarts, that’s how.

Let’s give credit where credit’s due. Do you honestly think Kim’s sudden charm offensive sprang from a heartfelt desire to be a peacemaker? He would still be testing missiles if Trump hadn’t threatened fire and fury with a nuclear button that he said was bigger than Kim’s, who he mockingly called “little rocket man”.

Trump-bashers pounce on every opportunity to pummel his crass language and swagger as unpresidential. But being presidential got predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama nowhere. Trump wasn’t far off when he said their conventional diplomacy bought Kim time to fine-tune his nuclear know-how.

What scares people is Trump’s brash unpredictability. You never know if he really means what he says. At least with poker-faced card players, you can risk calling a bluff. But dare you assume it’s a bluff when a mercurial leader with his finger on the button of the world’s most potent nuclear arsenal makes a threat?

People say that’s what makes Trump such a dangerous idiot. But this dangerous idiot got Kim to send his sister and athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, to stop further nuclear missile testing, to set up a summit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, offer to meet Trump, and to travel to Beijing to break the ice with Xi.

Kim was an astute player on his international debut in China

If you think all of that happened by accident, then you are the idiot, not Trump. It happened because no one dares to call his poker cards. Trump’s detractors claim Kim has already acquired the nuclear arsenal he needs to pose a threat to the US and is now ready to talk with a strengthened hand. What nonsense.

Kim knows that if he dares aim just one missile at the US and its allies, he and his country would be reduced to dust. So he used his own smarts to sell himself as the leader who is ready to talk, to flatter Xi to get the Chinese on his side, to ease Trump’s destructive sanctions, and to charm Moon into thinking rapprochement is possible between the north and the south.

Trump’s trade endgame said to be the opening of China’s economy

Again, let’s call a spade a spade. Do you really think it’s by accident that China now promises to further open its markets and pledge it will no longer demand foreign firms hand over hi-tech secrets if they want to do business on the Chinese mainland? It was Trump’s threatened trade war that rattled Xi enough to send envoys to the US to discuss market opening. Xi is expected to make a market-opening speech at next week’s Boao Forum.

I am not an apologist for Trump. I sat out the 2016 election. His victory horrified me as an American. But I have to grudgingly admit his gunslinging diplomacy has taken us where no other president dared go to achieve US political goals.

Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong journalist and TV show host