China Expert: Kushner Kid Serenading Xi ‘Sends All the Wrong Signals’

Columnist and author Gordon Chang said a video of Ivanka Trump’s daughter singing in Mandarin to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit last week “sends all the wrong signals” and represents an inappropriate degree of “submission” to the Chinese during an interview Monday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

Chang, a Daily Beast columnist and author of the book, “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World,” criticized President Donald Trump, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Ivanka for the way they handled optics during Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Although the video of five-year-old Arabella Kushner singing in Mandarin for Xi and his wife was regarded widely as adorable, Chang insisted viewers in China would see the images as an act of “submission.”

“So I believe that Donald Trump needs to talk about the human rights of China. He needed to say that in front of the cameras to Xi Jinping’s face because when we do that, we show we’re strong.”

“I think it’s great that Ivanka’s child can speak Chinese and can sing Chinese, but she shouldn’t be singing to a Chinese leader,” Chang said. “That sends all the wrong signals because we should not be showing respect to China at this particular time.”

Ivanka proudly promoted the moment on Twitter Friday, saying, “Very proud of Arabella and Joseph for their performance in honor of President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan’s official visit to the US!”

The president retweeted the video to his followers.

"And this is — the atmospherics are the substance. And we've got to remember that because you know, although we come from a democracy, we don't think legitimization is important because it's not important to our leaders. They are legitimate. They are elected," Chang said. "But, you know, we forget that when we deal — when we have dealings with autocrats."

"It gives them a lot of comfort because we've got to remember that these guys are insecure autocrats, and they like having foreigners play up to them, especially these images televised back to China through China's central television," Chang added. "This gives a sense of legitimacy to Xi Jinping, who is heading into a political season of his own … where he seeks to consolidate his rule and perhaps extend his position of power."

Chang said other key optics moments during the Mar-a-Lago summit offered insight into the way the Trump White House is approaching China.

In particular he pointed to the picture circulated of Kushner sitting near Xi while Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon — who represents Trump's populist-conservative base — sat further down the table.

"The United States spent decades looking at the placement of Soviet leaders on the podium in Red Square, and that was important because it did convey who was in and who was out," Chang said. "And that picture that you're referring to indicates that when it comes to China policy, that it is the Kushner wing of the Trump administration that is really setting the tune."

Although Chang was especially critical of how the Trump clan received Xi and his wife, he did commend the president for hosting Xi in the U.S. at his Florida residence.

"And that is an indication of the Chinese being supplicants," Chang said, although he noted that Trump didn't live up to his campaign promise to serve Xi a Big Mac.

"That's what should have been on the menu," Chang insisted. "The Chinese are especially arrogant these days. They have this sense in all times … that they should be the center of the international system. And that's why they called it the Central Kingdom. And when you have foreigners coming to the Chinese capital and paying homage, it's an indication of submission and inferiority of the visitors."

Chang said he thought Trump wasn't tough enough on Xi during this crucial first visit — a visit in which the two discussed their trade deficit and what to do about North Korea's aggression.

"We don't know where [Trump] stands because we don't know how the Hundred Day Plan will work out," Chang said. "But the important thing here is that candidate Trump talked about doing things immediately. And now we're not doing that."

"The problem with a Hundred Day Plan is that it could become a Two Hundred Day plan and a Three Hundred Day plan. And that is indeed what the Chinese will do," Chang added. "They will try to postpone things because that's in their advantage … This is going to be a problem because we are not taking effective action."

Trump should be much more forceful, Chang said, because "when it comes to our future relations with Beijing, we need to have a confrontational approach because China's doing things which are unacceptable."

"And not only unacceptable to us, but to our friends and allies, and indeed the entire international system," Chang said, pointing to China's deeply entrenched human rights abuses.

"When we don't talk about human rights, the Chinese become arrogant," Chang said. "So I believe that Donald Trump needs to talk about the human rights of China. He needed to say that in front of the cameras to Xi Jinping's face because when we do that, we show we're strong. When they see that we're strong, they are not so inclined to upset the international system by doing things which are dangerous."

Even though China has made some forms of progress — most notable their upgrade from the infamous "one child policy" that lead to the slaughter of thousands of girls to the "two child policy" — Chang insisted that it's an "indication that the current leaders are as bad as the old ones."

What's more, Chang predicted that the Chinese government loves the idea of the U.S. becoming more mired in Syria and the Middle East following Trump's airstrike in Syria last week.

"Right now, they believe that every day that we spend thinking about Syria or Yemen or whatever, we're not talking about the South China Sea, Taiwan …" Chang said. "When you come to officialdom, they would rather have the United States be involved someplace, you know, thousands and thousands of miles away from them, and not in their backyard."

Although both the U.S. and China indicated that they were working toward dealing with North Korea, Chang insisted that China would be of no real use to the effort. On a scale of one to 10, Chang said there was a "one-and-a-half" or "one-half" chance that China would aid in dealing with North Korea.

Last Modified: April 10, 2017, 3:21 pm

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