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Trump tries (and fails) to brag about China's economic troubles

Trump is desperate to brag about China's slower economic growth, but he doesn't understand the issue well enough to be coherent on the subject.
File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump (and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a welcome ceremony in Beijing.
File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump (and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a welcome ceremony in Beijing. 

Economic growth in China slowed in the second quarter, and as CNBC reported, it was "the weakest rate in at least 27 years." The report added that Donald Trump's trade war on Beijing has clearly taken a toll.

With that in mind, the American president celebrated a bit on Twitter this morning, boasting that his tariffs are "having a major effect on companies wanting to leave China for non-tariffed countries." Trump added, that the United States is "receiving Billions of Dollars in Tariffs from China, with possibly much more to come. These Tariffs are paid for by China devaluing & pumping, not by the U.S. taxpayer!"

The second part of this boast is outrageously false and evidence that Trump is still hopelessly confused about his own trade policy in any meaningful way. The Republican has been told countless times that American importers and consumers are paying more as a result of his tariffs -- not China -- but the president refuses to learn the basic details of his own agenda.

But the first part of his tweet is far less ridiculous. The Wall Street Journal reported overnight that there are shifts underway in Asia-Pacific manufacturing.

U.S. manufacturers are shifting production to countries outside of China as trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies stretch into a second year. [...]The biggest beneficiaries of that decline have been other countries in Asia where production costs are low, such as Vietnam, India, Taiwan and Malaysia. [...]There is little evidence, though, of U.S. manufacturers bringing production from China back to the U.S., a move the Trump administration hoped the tariffs would encourage.

And that's what makes Trump's boasts so odd.

According to the White House, the point of the president's trade agenda -- or one of them, anyway -- is to encourage manufacturers to bring their production work back to American soil. Trump talks about this all the time: companies that want to avoid tariffs can simply make their products in the United States.

Putting aside the complicating factors -- most notably, what that would do to the prices of most consumer goods -- the evidence shows Trump isn't generating the intended results. U.S. manufacturers are shifting production away from China, but they're not bringing their businesses here.

So what exactly is the American president bragging about? Is he confused about his own goals again?

In early June, Trump told reporters, "A lot of people, senators included, they have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to tariffs. They have no -- absolutely no idea."

It was among his more obvious failures of self-awareness.