When President Donald Trump proclaimed himself "the Chosen One" destined to defeat China in trade negotiations, his officials quickly tried to claim that he was just joking.
But as Business Insider's Alex Lockie wrote on Thursday, another remark from Trump this week proves that he was in fact deadly serious — and that he is governing from a view of the world that will let him deliberately destroy the American economy if it gets him what he wants.
"President Donald Trump on Wednesday spelled it out loud and clear for anyone still confused about the trade war: Hurting China's economy is more important to him than helping the US's economy," wrote Lockie. "'Let me tell you, if I wanted to do nothing with China, my stock market, our stock market would be 10,000 points higher than it is right now,' Trump told reporters at the White House. 'But somebody had to do this. To me, this is much more important than the economy ... It was out of control. They were out of control.'"
This is an incredible admission. Trump is essentially saying that not only is trade a zero-sum game — which it patently isn't — but also that China's economy contracting is better than America's economy expanding.
"In three consecutive white papers on national security, defense, and even nuclear policy, the Trump administration has identified China not as a partner to be engaged with, but as an emerging and powerful adversary," wrote Lockie. "In terms of the trade, Trump has likened China's business practices to the rape of the US economy."
Previous administrations, by contrast, were certainly cognizant of China's unfair trade practices, from labor abuse to currency manipulation to theft of intellectual property — but they didn't see it as their singular mission to destroy China, and recognized that trading with China benefits the United States as well.
"The US and China today represent the world's two greatest economies," wrote Lockie. "Trump, unequivocally, has called for them to disentangle, or decouple. This will cause economic pain and suffering in both countries that could be orders of magnitude greater than a normal recession or slowdown, but pain is the point."
The problem, said Lockie, is that China knows the United States, as a democracy, will replace its leaders if they tank their own economy — so they will not negotiate, their tariffs will be absorbed by multinational corporations that can afford it, and those that can't will fold.
"In short, Trump's trade war will tank the US economy, and that's by design," concluded Lockie. "Trump believes deeply in the trade war and his role in commanding it. According to Chorzempa and other experts, now that the cat's out of the bag, it will be very hard to limit the reach of the economic damage."
When Trump said he was the "Chosen One," he wasn't kidding — and he's prepared to make the whole country pay for what he sees as his destiny.