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On China, Trump tries and fails to keep his story straight

On China and currency manipulation, no one seems to disagree with the Trump administration more than Trump.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, March 23, 2018, as he heads to Marine One for a short trip to...

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump seemed quite animated on the issue of China and its alleged currency manipulation. He vowed to label China a currency manipulator literally on his first day in office.

The president quickly broke that promise, but the Republican nevertheless railed against Beijing after taking office. In March 2017, Trump blasted China as the "grand champions" of currency manipulation. Soon after, he called China the "world champion" of currency manipulation. It was therefore kind of amusing when Trump declared a year ago that China actually isn't manipulating its currency.

It was around this time that China's state-run media published headlines such as, "Trump slaps self in face, again."

Six months later, it was again time for the American president to make a designation on China, and again, Trump said China wasn't manipulating its currency. The pattern continued late last week.

The Trump administration, which has been on the verge of a trade war with China, opted on Friday not to label the country a currency manipulator, breaking a key campaign promise by President Trump to punish a government he has called the "greatest currency manipulators ever."The Treasury Department, in its biannual currency exchange report, scolded China for its lack of progress in reducing the bilateral trade deficit with the United States, but did not find that it was improperly devaluing its currency, known as the renminbi.

At face value, the disconnect is jarring. Before and after the 2016 election, Trump went after Beijing aggressively on currency manipulation, only to quietly slink away when it came time to put his policies where his mouth was.

But complicating matters further is the president's willingness to ignore his own administration.

Just yesterday, Trump declared on Twitter that China is "playing the Currency Devaluation game," which he added is "not acceptable!"

In other words, literally three days after the Trump administration said China is not devaluing its currency -- the third time in a year the Trump administration had made this assessment -- Trump declared that China is devaluing its currency. He pointed to no proof, and offered no explanation for why he rejected his own Treasury Department's findings.

I don't seriously expect the president to understand this -- it's hard not to wonder if he even knows what currency manipulation is -- but Trump's claims are false according to the Trump administration's data.

As for why the president vehemently disagrees with his own administration about an issue he doesn't seem to understand, your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps he caught part of a news segment, drew some misguided conclusions, and started tweeting again?