Some interesting parts about China from the book Rage by Bob Woodward:
— There is not much we don’t already know. It seems he heavily drew upon interviews with Mattis, Tillerson, Dan Coats, Rosenthal and possibly Fauci.
— Pottinger was the one who suggested the travel ban on China in the early days of COV19. Pottinger reads Chinese social media closely and talks with people on the ground in China. His sources, most notably a Chinese doctor with perfect credentials helped him realize how dangerous COV is, way before the Chinese saying so.
— China was not forthcoming at all, in phone calls with Chinese CDC officials, Fauci and Redfield repeatedly asked for permission to send in a team of US experts and asked the Chinese to share virus samples, but the Chinese are noncommittal. Trump later made similar requests in a call with Xi but to no avail. Fauci and Redfield thought it was because the Chinese were too proud to receive the help. But some “Chinese elites” told Pottinger that China may have the sinister goal of deliberately trying to spread the virus outside China. Pottinger didn’t buy it.
— In a phone call with Trump, Xi asked the Americans not to use the term “China virus”, and Pottinger left the call having a sense that China may tie this to its export of PPE to the United States. Kushner got in touch with Cui Tiankai soon afterward telling him that they must understand the whole world will hate China for the virus given the rising death toll, and Beijing better not get in the way of US trying to get medical supplies.
— The several calls between Trump and Xi were overall very cordial. In only one call, Trump raised the issue about Zhao Lijian and his conspiracy theory that the virus may be brought to Wuhan by an American army athlete who were there to attend the military Olympics. “This is a ridiculous comment, you know, Trump said. It was tense, and they argued.” Woodward described the conversation, adding that Xi soon pivoted to another topic.
— Trump described Xi to Woodward as “His personality is incredible … His strength, his mental and physical strength, is great. He’s very, very smart. He’s very cunning. I get along with him fantastically well”.
— Trump told Woodward that the Chinese had a plan to sign the trade deal only after the US elections but then “China went out, hired the best pollsters in the country, and they said Trump’s going to win in a landslide,” he claimed. “They said, might as well get it over with.”
— Pottinger was also involved from the very beginning in the “maximum pressure” against DPRK and he came up with several policy options to pressure NK.
— In a meeting with Xi in Beijing, “Tillerson said I have to know that you’re standing behind Kim with your hand around his neck. And every time he misbehaves, you just give him a gentle squeeze so he knows you’re there. All Xi did was smile.”
— Mattis was against using force on NK, and he frequently went to the Holly Spirit Chapel in the rear of the National Cathedral for prayer, “around the close of business, when few people were there.”
— Mattis built an incredibly good rapport at Mount Vernon with the visiting Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe in 2018. I find this part especially interesting, and refreshing.
Mattis reminded Wei, “We weren’t part of the 100 years of humiliation” and that, “we haven’t been adversaries. The American people actually have an affection for China.”
“Now Mattis pushed closer to the bone. ‘Are you aware that it was the Americans that created the world that allowed the hardworking Chinese people to advantage themselves and move out of poverty?’ Mattis asked, turning to look at Wei. Trade with America had helped propel the dramatic modernization of China. Wei looked intently at Mattis and pulled him close, an apparent gesture of unusual affection.‘Yes,’ Wei said. ‘And we know we owe the Americans most of the thanks for this.’ No ambiguity. ‘Absolutely,’ he said. ‘We owe the Americans most.’
They also talked about China’s militarization in South China Sea. Wei said “Well, but General, they were defensive weapons,” to that Mattis replied “I’ve been shot at by defensive weapons and offensive. I can’t tell the difference, okay?” Wei smiled slightly as the translator’s words sank in.
Mattis again assured Wei that the US is not trying to contain China “But we’re going to confront you when you decide to screw with us… Look if you want to fight, I’ll fight. I’ll fight anybody. I’ll fight frigging Canada, okay,” Mattis said. “But I’ve had enough of fighting. I’ve written enough letters to mothers. I don’t need to write any more. And you don’t need to write them, either.”