Bannon called the co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a left-wing magazine that aims to “advance liberal and progressive goals,” seemingly out of the blue.
But Bannon wasn’t calling to lambast the editor, Robert Kuttner, over recent articles criticizing Trump, but to praise him for his take on China and to give a wide-ranging interview on his view of things in the White House and beyond.
Kuttner said Bannon was in “high spirits” when he called and praised Kuttner’s recent reporting on China. He also said that he was stunned that Bannon approached him.
“We’re at economic war with China,” Bannon said in the interview. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”
Bannon told Kuttner he would consider a deal with China that would see the United States remove troops from the Korean peninsula in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections, but such a deal seemed unlikely.
There was no easy solution to North Korea, said Bannon, and even a military strike could result in huge South Korean casualties.
Bannon expressed worry that the “sideshow” problem of North Korea was distracting the United States from a more serious threat.
“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
Bannon wants to see the United States begin to use the legal provisions it has that have never been fully deployed, including filing a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act to take action against the Chinese regime’s practice of forcing American corporations to transfer technology to Chinese partners in exchange for market access there.
“We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”
Bannon also spoke of his rivals in the White House and “economic doves” who have made it difficult to pursue the trade policy he advocates for.
As for talk of the far-right, Bannon was dismissive and derided extremist groups.
“Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it,” said Bannon. “These guys are a collection of clowns.”
But he suggested the attention directed towards them worked in Trump’s favor. With the Democrats focused on identity politics and race, the White House could focus on economic nationalism and use that to “crush the Democrats.”