Ron Vara was ‘made up’ by Navarro: Peter’s ‘whimsical’ invention is a step too far

China Plus Published: 2019-10-21 23:53:37
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Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."

Director of the White House National Trade Council, Peter Navarro, has admitted he quoted a fictional character - made up using an anagram of his last name - in multiple books on economics, which assert the threat posed by China to the U.S.. He called the invention of the apparent China expert, ‘Ron Vara’, a “whimsical device and pen name…for opinion and purely entertainment value, not as a source of fact.”

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro pauses while speaking after a television interview at the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Washington. [Photo: AP/IC]

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro pauses while speaking after a television interview at the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Washington. [Photo: AP/IC]

Navarro made the statement after the Australian scholar, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor emeritus of Japanese history at the Australian National University, revealed Ron Vara’s true identity within an article which studied the heated anti-China language Navarro used in his books, including the popular 2011 publication, Death by China. In the statement, Navarro said it was "refreshing that somebody finally figured out an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years."

But the ‘joke’ doesn’t seem to have impressed Professor Morris-Suzuki, who stated, “once he [Ron Vara] started to be used as a source of fear and loathing about China, and of messages which readers are likely to believe about the dangers of various Chinese products, the joke wore very thin.” Pearson, the publisher behind Navarro’s Death by China, has said the White House economic adviser breached strict editorial standards and the company confirmed it is “amending our current inventory and all future reprints and editions to alert readers that this book contains a fictional character.”

As a major architect behind Washington’s trade war with Beijing, 70-year-old Navarro has drawn a lot of criticism for his unreasonable propositions on trade and the economy. Mainstream economists have accused him of creating a new wave of thought, dubbed the "stupid school." By quoting phony sources that he himself fabricated, Navarro depicted China as an evil currency manipulator and accused it of being a deadly threat to the United States – a blatant attempt to curry favour with far right figures in Washington. Interestingly, Navarro had been a long-time supporter of the U.S. Democratic Party until he received an invitation from the White House in 2016.

According to the U.S. based ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’, “Navarro doesn’t have a background in Chinese studies, doesn’t speak the language, and reportedly made his first trip to the country only last year.” But that hasn’t stopped him from being the most radical White House advocator of the “China threat” theory and becoming the major force behind the U.S. tariff wars against China.

For a supposedly high-ranking U.S. official, Navarro has made some rather basic errors within his claims about the impact on U.S. companies and families caused by extra tariffs. He even confused tariffs with the value-added tax. However, despite some mainstream media, including the Wall Street Journal, ridiculing and refuting Navarro’s remarks, his stance has played well within the White House. He has been described as President Trump’s “spirit animal”, with his radical views on China even considered a symbol of patriotism.

So why is such a person – a self-confessed fabricator of facts and inventor of political speculation – so popular at the White House? The answer goes back to the Cold War – with ‘tin foil hat’ and zero-sum thinking a legacy of one of the most paranoid eras of the American world view. Some U.S. politicians and political speculators are knowingly telling fraudulent stories, dressed up as the truth. The world should stay vigilant to Navarro and his fellow ‘alternative facts’ espousers. They are capable of undermining world peace and development and the global knock-on effect of their words and claims comes at a great price.

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LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.