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.
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.
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
The man who campaigned on a platform of commercial hostility towards China explained his order thusly: "Too many jobs in China lost."
Talking to Reuters,
“[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
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.
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.