But as is often the case, when it was time to put his words into action, the Republican retreated, abandoning his promise and prompting China's state-run media to mock the American president's latest surrender.
But wait, Trump says. There's a perfectly good reason that explains the retreat: the White House didn't label China a currency manipulator because Trump, as an extension of his infinite greatness, successfully changed China's approach to monetary policy. Consider this exchange on "Face the Nation" yesterday between the president and CBS's John Dickerson.
TRUMP: ...I did say I would call China, if they were, a currency manipulator, early in my tenure. And then I get there. Number one, they -- as soon as I got elected, they stopped. They're not -- it's not going down anymore, their currency.
DICKERSON: But that had been true before. That had been true--
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No.
In his interview with the Associated Press last week, Trump made a similar comment, arguing, "President Xi, from the time I took office, he has not, they have not been currency manipulators. Because there's a certain respect because he knew I would do something or whatever."
I'm not sure what's worse: the idea that Trump actually believes this or the idea that he doesn't.
As far as reality is concerned, the facts are not in dispute: China's currency manipulation stopped in 2014. The evidence is unambiguous and unchallenged.
In 2014, the idea that Donald Trump would be elected president of the United States was laughable, so there's no sane way to argue that Beijing's policies were shaped by China's non-existent "respect" for the New York Republican.
What we're left with is two possibilities. The first is Trump knows China didn't change its policies because of him, but he's so embarrassed by his handling of the issue-- and the ease with which he abandoned a promise he made to voters -- that he's brazenly lying, hoping his demonstrably false claims will distract some people from the truth.
The second is that Trump is so delusional, he actually believes his presidency shaped events in China three years ago.
I don't know which of these explanations is true, but they both seem pretty bad.