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Fortune Cookie economics: Peter Navarro's alter ego is no hand grenade

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Like David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, conservatives use (non-) fictional everymen in their writing. WH adviser Peter Navarro is no different: his is the thinly disguised Ron Vara, no different than David Dennison or John Barron.

Today the Comical of Higher Education takes Peter Navarro to task for his sinophobia which only got attention from the WH because Jarvanka found his book on Amazon. His view of an avaricious China was attractive to both Trump and Steve Bannon and nearly enough to make one put on a Speedo and swim to a press briefing. Except there will apparently be none of those in the remainder of the Trump tenure.

Navarro has survived the WH loss of other economic advisers, even as he does not take point on the China trade negotiations. Like historians who interpret artifacts without doing fieldwork, his first visit to China was last year. 

Ron Vara has strong opinions. He thinks you’ve “got to be nuts to eat Chinese food.” He doles out little scraps of wisdom, like “Don’t play checkers in a chess world.” Vara is a military veteran and Harvard-trained economist who made seven figures in the stock market by investing in companies that do well during international crises. His contrarian savvy earned him an ominous-sounding nickname: Dark Prince of Disaster.

Vara makes frequent cameos in the books of Peter Navarro, a White House adviser who is often referred to as Trump’s “China muse.” Before joining the White House, Navarro was a professor of economics and public policy at the University of California at Irvine and the author of books like Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — A Global Call to Action and The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought and How They Can Be Won (FT Press). He’s since become one of Trump’s most dogged defenders, telling CNN recently that “I am never disappointed in my president.”

Trump seems to have faith in Navarro, too. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that when the president decided to impose tariffs on China, the only adviser in favor of the plan was Navarro.

China scholars and fellow economists tend to be less enthused. Navarro doesn’t have a background in Chinese studies, doesn’t speak the language, and reportedly made his first trip to the country only last year.

Notably, Navarro’s now-staggering influence over President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China can be traced back to one of his books. Jared Kushner reportedly asked Navarro to join the 2016 Trump campaign as a trade adviser after stumbling across the 2011 book “Death by China” on Amazon. That work, like a half dozen others, quotes the fake source.…

In 1992, Ron Vara rode out Hurricane Andrew in his houseboat, “the Patriot,” frantically pumping water out of the craft as coconuts rammed into its side. Luckily, he’d guessed a few weeks earlier that hurricane season would ruin the insurance industry. He made a stock market bet and cashed in big.

Who is Vara? Well, he’s a Sinophobic stock market genius, the so-called “Dark Prince of Disaster,” and a “macrowave trader,” whatever that means. Also, he’s only ever been quoted by one man: White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

There’s a reason for that: Vara doesn’t exist.…

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