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Trump to 'Make America Great Again' with Chinese-made US flags

© Gregg Newton, AFP | A Donald Trump supporter holding an American flag in Orlando.

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2018-07-07

As the US-Chinese trade war gets into full swing, one Chinese businessman claims to have secured his own stake in the US free-market economy making American flags for President Trump’s 2020 election campaign.

Donald Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) campaign is, in part at least, to be "Made in China", where flags supporting the US president’s 2020 re-election campaign would be cobbled together on a Chinese assembly line. The deal was confirmed by the owner of the Chinese factory Li Jiang during an interview with US radio station NPR on July 3. The revelations couldn’t have come at a worse time for Trump who’s just launched a trade war with Beijing in order to protect US jobs against the threat of cheap Chinese labour.

"We made these flags for the 2016 campaign and we received an order for 2020," said Li Jiang, who secured the deal. For him, the choice is simply a matter of commercial savvy. "Our customers are smart, they know we’re cheaper than our competitors and they would buy [US-made] only if prices were lower," said the businessman.

Make China great again

Li Jiang's company has become one of the world's leading flag suppliers ever since China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, according to NPR. The company has sold national flags to Germany, France and Brazil, and was even contracted to supply flags for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign.

By choosing to buy flags from China, Trump appears to have followed in the footsteps of other trading partners before him, except his numerous public and vociferous speeches rejecting Chinese imports have signaled a tangible detour away from his key electoral slogan to “Buy American, hire American".

It’s not the first time, however, that Trump's pro-protectionist stance has come back to bite him. The US media have made it their business to track down the country of origin of everything the president touches, sells or wears. In 2012, the then billionaire was mocked by David Letterman, CBS's star presenter, who told television audiences that Trump's ties were all made in China, while his costumes came from Mexico. The Huffington Post also reported that Trump Hotel stocks linen, bath towels and accessories all made in China.

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the US president and a businesswoman in her own right, relies heavily on Chinese labour for her eponymous fashion empire. US customs officials told AFP that 53.5 tons of shoes, bags and clothes bearing Ivanka’s label were entering the US from China at the very same moment Trump was delivering a speech about the importance of "Made in America" back ​​in January 2017.

However, in their efforts to expose the gap between Trump’s protectionist rhetoric and his propensity for doing business with Chinese (or other foreign) factories, the media has sometimes missed the mark. In January 2017, several publications incorrectly reported that the red baseball caps emblazoned with the acronym MAGA and worn by the president's supporters during his inauguration, were imported from China. The official caps, which are available on the president's website, were found to be among the few campaign products that could authentically be labelled, "Made in America".

This is an adaptation from an article originally in French.

Date created : 2018-07-07

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