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Former Trump strategist and China critic Steve Bannon speaking in Hong Kong brokerage meeting

Acerbic former aide of Trump who believes China and US are in an economic war to speak on September 12

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 3:14am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 3:14am

Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who advocates a tougher US stance toward China, has agreed to speak at an event hosted by a unit of the biggest state-owned Chinese brokerage.

Bannon, who left his White House role three weeks ago after a controversial tenure in Donald Trump’s administration, will address an investor forum in Hong Kong organised by CLSA, an overseas unit of Citic Securities Co. The September 12 talk will focus on “American economic nationalism, the populist revolt and Asia,” according to a CLSA spokeswoman.

A Bannon representative was unsure whether he’ll receive a speaking fee for the event, which will be his first company-sponsored appearance since leaving the government. He’s unconcerned about CLSA’s connections to the Chinese government, his representative said. The CBS Corp show “60 Minutes” will broadcast an interview with Bannon on Sunday.

Bannon, who has called for direct confrontation with Beijing over trade, told The American Prospect magazine soon before his White House departure that the US and China are engaged in an “economic war.” He has since returned to his executive chairman role at Breitbart News, which said last month it will accelerate efforts to expand its populist and nationalist message globally.

“He’s the man of the moment, and we believe our clients are interested in what he has to say,” CLSA said in a response to questions from Bloomberg. “He is current and his opinion influences the markets.”

Given Bannon’s stance on China, it’s “ironic” that he’s taking part in an event hosted by a company with ties to the Chinese government, said Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics in Hong Kong.

Still, Citic Securities is “pretty hands off” when it comes to managing CLSA, Kuijs said. The firm was founded in Hong Kong by two former journalists in 1986 and bought by Citic Securities in 2013, according to CLSA’s website.

Ties between America and China, the world’s largest economies, have become a growing focus for investors after Trump regularly bashed China for unfair trade practises on the campaign trail.

While the relationship appeared to warm after Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping during their first meeting in April, it has become more strained in recent weeks as the countries struggled to find common ground on North Korea’s nuclear programme.

Bannon may be gone, but tensions between the US and China will linger

Trump, who has linked US trade policy with China’s efforts to restrain Pyongyang, asked his top trade official to investigate Chinese theft of US intellectual property last month.

Bannon, 63, wouldn’t be the first controversial figure to address the CLSA forum, which is attended by hundreds of asset managers each year. Edward Snowden spoke via satellite in 2015 and Sarah Palin appeared eight years ago.

The event typically features speakers from all walks of life, including government, finance, Hollywood and sports.

Past attendees have included George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Beckham. Former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and US Olympian Michael Phelps are among the speakers at this year’s event.