Way off in the Land Down Under, former President Barack Obama blamed his White House successor Donald Trump for China’s increasingly antagonistic behavior.
Obama talked foreign policy during a paid speaking tour appearance Tuesday in Sydney — part of a lucrative arrangement that reportedly could net him upwards of $1 million.
In talking with former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, Obama said Chinese leader Xi Jinping has a “forceful and confident” demeanor, according to reporting by Daily Mail Australia and NCA Newswire.
The Democrat said China began to change “once I left office” in 2017 when Trump entered the White House following his victory over Obama’s preferred candidate Hillary Clinton.
“With my successor coming in, I think he saw an opportunity because the U.S. president didn’t seem to care that much about a rules-based international system,” Obama said of Xi.
“And so as a consequence, I think China’s attitude as well, we can take advantage of what appears to be a vacuum internationally on a lot of these issues,” Obama said.
Even as he worked to strike a deal, Trump waged a trade war against China during his four years in office, which included steep tariffs on imports in what he said was an effort to reverse a deficit that disadvantaged the United States. In Trump’s stated view, it was his predecessors, including Obama, who allowed China to become so powerful.
“They took advantage of us for many, many years,” Trump told Fox News host Steve Hilton in 2019. “And I blame us, I don’t blame them. I don’t blame President Xi. I blame all of our presidents, and not just President Obama. You go back a long way. You look at President Clinton, Bush — everybody. They allowed this to happen, they created a monster. We rebuilt China because they get so much money.”
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Now, more than two years into the presidency of Joe Biden, who served under Obama as vice president, U.S. intelligence officials are warning that China has become the biggest national security threat to the United States. Last week, more than a year into Russia’s war in Ukraine, Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where they struck deals that further cemented economic ties between their two countries.
During the event in Australia, Obama reportedly observed that relations between the United States and China are “significantly strained” and predicted that tensions are not “going to go away anytime soon.”
“Nor should they, because I think there are some fundamental differences in terms of how we operate when you look at the South China Sea,” Obama said, referring to Beijing’s territorial dispute with many of its neighbors in Asia.
“The fact of the matter is, is that if China starts claiming what had previously been international waters that is going to make life difficult for its neighbors, and for everyone, long term, I don’t even think it’s going to be good for China,” Obama said.