The Chinese government has pledged last week to invest a half-billion dollars in a massive Indonesian development that will also license the Trump brand. Soon after, Trump endorsed a bailout for a Chinese mobile company.

Trump's Indonesian resort. A construction firm run by the Chinese government announced on Thursday that it will work with the Indonesian government to develop a theme park outside its capital Jakarta, according to ​The Agence France Presse.

The theme park will be part of a larger project -- "MNC Lido City" -- which will also license the brand of President Donald Trump for many of its hotels and residentials, as well as for (of course) a golf course.

This means Trump stands to benefit personally from the project. 

The Chinese investment in Lido City is part of a broader Chinese foreign policy ("Belt and Road") which aims to expand the reach of China's economy -- and political influence -- by funding the construction of roads, ports, and industrial sites all over the world.

Though the Chinese loans will not be funneled directly to the Trump-brand developments, they could prove essential to the viability of the resort as a whole.

China first. Then, on Sunday, Trump tweeted that he had instructed The US Commerce Department to help the bailout of ZTE, a failing Chinese cellphone company.

The man who campaigned on a platform of commercial hostility towards China explained his order thusly: "Too many jobs in China lost."


Democrats. Trump's decision to roll back penalties -- which were originally imposed on ZTE due to its violation of US trade restrictions and intellectual property laws -- was rebuked in a letter co-signed by a number of Democratic senators. 

“Offering to trade American sanctions enforcement to promote jobs in China is plainly a bad deal for American workers and for the security of all Americans," the letter read.

​Talking to Reuters, Senator Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, was fuming. “Who makes unilateral concessions on the eve of talks after you’ve spent all this time trying to say, correctly in my view, that the Chinese have ripped off our technology?" he said on Tuesday.

Republicans. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, speaking at a Foreign Affairs Relations Committee hearing, also expressed dismay.

“[ZTE] are basically conducting an all-out assault to steal what we’ve already developed and use it as the baseline for their development so they can supplant us as the leader in the most important technologies of the 21st century," Rubio said. "I hope the administration does not move forward on this supposed deal."


Timing. China's Vice Premier Liu He, the country's top economic official, will be in Washington next week to discuss the trade imbalance. Trump's ZTE decision clearly came as a prelude to the meeting, but the proximity of these two events to China's Lido City announcement brings Trump's private business (​from which he has never fully divested himself) into the mix.

Appearance. Proving a direct quid-pro-quo between Trump and the Chinese government (easing ZTE sanctions in exchange for investment in Lido City) is tricky. But whether or not this is a violation of the Emoluments Clause, it definitely doesn't look great.

Trade war. Throughout his campaign and long after, Trump has been nothing but bullish towards China's "unfairtrade practices. Now, as a trade war between the two countries threatens to break, Trump is showing uncharacteristic generosity towards Chinese business (specifically towards a company that had admitted ​to committing privacy violations), not to mention a peculiar concern for Chinese jobs.

On the other hand: Trump is a dealmaker. Jumping erratically (in what to many defies coherence) between fighting-words and sweet-talk is typical of the president's negotiation style. It's perfectly possible that his ZTE tweet is nothing more than a tactical gesture calculated to butter up the Chinese government before the meeting with Liu next week.