Morning Brief

New Bolton Book Suggests U.S.-China Feud Is Trumped Up

A new book from former National Security Advisor John Bolton shows a Trump eager to get into Xi Jinping’s good graces.

China's President Xi Jinping shakes hands with US President Donald Trump before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019.
China's President Xi Jinping shakes hands with US President Donald Trump before a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: John Bolton’s book shines new light on U.S.-China relations, the United Nations elects new security council members, and the Saudi-led coalition denies killing civilians in Yemen.

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Former Trump Advisor Provides New Look At Trump-Xi Relationship

The authenticity of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ongoing rhetorical feud with China has been thrown into question by revelations in a forthcoming book by former national security advisor John Bolton, which alleges that Trump explicitly asked Chinese premier Xi Jinping to help ensure his reelection.

For months the Trump administration has been pinning the blame on China for the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign has included referring to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” and a “Chinese virus” as well as alleging that China fabricated the virus in a research lab, despite statements to the contrary by the U.S. intelligence community.

That combative tone is in sharp contrast to the picture Bolton paints of a Trump eager to seek Xi’s assistance with his 2020 reelection campaign by persuading China to spend more on U.S. agricultural products. According to Bolton, Trump “stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

Bolton also says Trump reversed penalties imposed on the Chinese ZTE corporation in 2018 in order to ingratiate himself with Xi. At the time, Trump tweeted that the U-turn was due to “too many jobs in China” being lost.

Trump’s two-faced Uighur policy. Bolton further alleges that Trump said Xi should “go ahead” with concentration camps for over one million ethnic Uighurs in the eastern province of Xinjiang. That didn’t stop Trump signing legislation on Wednesday that calls for sanctions on those involved in the disappearance and detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang. However, the president later issued a statement saying one part of the bill—asking the president to notify Congress before lifting sanctions on individuals—would be considered advisory rather than mandatory as it may hamper his efforts at diplomacy.

Will it change anything? As Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer report, the book—like the president’s impeachment and special counsel inquiry—are unlikely to derail Trump. However, “the revelations could instead give a fresh batch of political ammunition to Trump’s 2020 Democratic rival, whose surrogates have castigated the president as reckless and dangerous for American democracy,” they write.

What We’re Following Today

Fauci says America not in coronavirus “second wave.” Anthony Fauci, the senior infectious disease expert on the White House coronavirus task force poured cold water on talk of a second wave of infections in the United States, as cases rise nationwide. “We’re still in a first wave,” Fauci said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal. The statistics are on Fauci’s side, whereas other wealthy countries have managed to bend their coronavirus curves, the U.S. curve now resembles more of a plateau: the three-day moving average of daily new cases on June 1 stood at 22,887; that same measure on Tuesday was 22,009.

U.N. says yes to Bono, no to Celine Dion. India, Ireland, Mexico and Norway were elected to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday after stiff campaigning at the international body. One seat is still unfilled after U.N. members voted and will go to either Kenya or Djibouti. The two-year term for the new members will begin on January 1, 2021. Canada missed out on a seat on the council despite wooing U.N. ambassadors with a Celine Dion concert. The Irish delegation was more successful—having curried favor by treating ambassadors to a U2 concert early in campaigning.

Coalition denies killing civilians in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has denied killing civilians in an airstrike in the Houthi-controlled Saada province. The Houthi health minister said the Monday strike killed 13 civilians, including four children. Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, seemed to corroborate the Houthi account, citing initial reports from the field.

Burundi fast-tracks inauguration. Following a ruling by Burundi’s constitutional court, the winner of May’s presidential election, Evariste Ndayishimiye, will be sworn in today—two months ahead of schedule. The ruling was made after the previous president, Pierre Nkurunziza, died suddenly on June 8. In normal circumstances the president of the national assembly would have assumed the office, but the court’s ruling is intended to smooth the transfer of power.

Writing in Foreign Policy on June 15, Désiré Nimubona outlined the challenges ahead for Ndayishimiye as he takes office.

Keep an Eye On

Your LinkedIn messages. Hackers posing as recruiters for U.S. defense contractors used bogus job offers on LinkedIn to access the networks of at least two defense and aerospace firms in Central Europe according to the cybersecurity firm ESET. Jean-Ian Boutin, ESET’s head of threat research said it was common for hackers to use e-mail to engineer a breach, but not the social networking site. “This is the first case I am aware of where LinkedIn was used to deliver the malware itself,” he said.

Venezuela “restructuring” opposition. The Venezuelan Supreme Court has appointed new leaders to two of Venezuela’s opposition political parties in a process it called a “necessary restructuring,” ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections. Juan Guaidó’s party was unaffected by the changes. The appointees have ties to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, prompting the European Union to warn that the move reduces “the democratic space in the country.” The Supreme Court made further changes to Venezuela’s electoral processes last week, when they appointed a new electoral commission—a process usually undertaken by the opposition-led National Assembly.

Odds and Ends

Manipulating mosquitoes. The Florida department of agriculture has approved a plan to release millions of genetically-modified mosquitoes into the wild in an attempt to stem the proliferation of the insect in the famously warm and humid state. Only male non-biting mosquitoes will be released as part of the scheme, and it is hoped that a special protein the insects carry will lessen the chances of survival for any female (and biting) offspring. Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety called the operation a “Jurassic Park experiment” and criticized the lack of an assessment into potential environmental damage. “What could possibly go wrong? We don’t know, because they unlawfully refused to seriously analyze environmental risks.”

Big Brother comes to Russia’s schools. Surveillance cameras linked to a facial recognition program called “Orwell” are to be installed in hundreds of Russian schools, according to a report in the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. The company installing the systems is a subsidiary of state defense company Rostec and will track students entering and exiting schoolgrounds, as well as detect strangers. A company representative admitted that a trial surveillance system was being used in Russian schools, but denied the use of facial recognition programs.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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