UCI's Peter Navarro Brings Steely Resolve Regarding China to Trump Campaign

UC Irvine's Peter Navarro first endorsed Donald Trump in March.EXPAND
UC Irvine's Peter Navarro first endorsed Donald Trump in March.
CNBC

Peter Navarro got heat nationally with the 2011 book the controversial UC Irvine economics professor co-authored with Greg Autry titled Death by China: Confronting the Dragon which, among other things, praised American steel-maker Nucor Corp. for standing up to Washington’s free trade lobby.

“If American corporate executives want to better understand the art of fighting back against Chinese mercantilism and protectionism, they need look no further than Nucor … and the example set by its [chief executive officer], Dan DiMicco [who] spends considerable time in the public arena lobbying for real trade reform with China," according to the book.

"Besides running one of the most successful and technologically innovative companies in the world, DiMicco spends considerable time in the public arena lobbying for real trade reform with China. In this way, DiMicco provides a sharp counterpoint to the naïve or even turncoat behavior of CEOs like GE's Jeffrey Immelt and Westinghouse's Jack Allen."

The corporation's charitable Nucor Foundation contributed $1 million to help make Death by China, a 2012 documentary that was based on the book, was narrated by Martin Sheen and is now available on Netflix and YouTube.

Last week, Navarro and DiMicco were named to the Trump Economic Advisory Council, which, as the title suggests, is advising Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump praised the book and the documentary, but Navarro revealed he had never met the New York billionaire before he was named to the council. "He endorsed and defended Trump in a March essay, and given that relatively few academic economists have embraced the Trump candidacy, Navarro is plausibly a leading candidate for a top job in a Trump administration," writes Bloomberg's Tyler Cowen.

Navarro described his role thusly: "I now work closely with the campaign on issues related to the economy, trade, China, and foreign policy in Asia."

Before coming to Irvine, Navarro was a UC San Diego professor and unsuccessful candidate for mayor, city council, county supervisor and congressman in San Diego, according to the San Diego Reader, which first wrote about Navarro's connection to his fellow Trump adviser DiMicco. Navarro also wrote a cover story for the alternative newsweekly on his experiences as a politico in San Diego.

Indeed, it's worth checking out the Reader pieces to learn how garbage figured into Navarro's campaigns, although I can't confirm that's what made him a lock to spread the Trump gospel. 

There is speculation that a Trump administration would retain now retired Nucor CEO DiMicco as the trade negotiator who will confront China.

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During a Trump presidency, DiMicco could find himself working with Navarro, who "has been one of the most versatile and productive American economists of the last few decades, and has played a leading role in turning the Republican Party away from what's left of its historical optimism about U.S.-China relations," Cowen writes.

Navarro apparently described himself in a recent e-mail as "a Reagan-Trump Democrat abandoned long ago by my party on the economy, trade and foreign policy."

The last in a trilogy of China books by Navarro is last year's Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World. Cowen found it "an intelligent discussion of the problems likely to result from a more assertive China" that "does not come close to demonstrating his opening prediction that future war with China is 'very likely.'”

(I know of one presidential candidate that could make such a war more likely.)

Crouching Tiger is now a 10-documentary film series. Here is the trailer:


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