Politics

Bannon Says ‘Economic War With China Is Everything,’ Calls Ethno-Nationalists ‘Losers’

Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon / AP

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon discussed his focus on economic warfare with China and blasted so-called "ethno-nationalists" as "losers" in a candid interview published Wednesday.

The interview, which was given to Robert Kuttner, appeared in the American Prospect. Bannon explained to Kuttner how economic nationalism formed the center of his political message.

"To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover," Bannon said.

Bannon stressed that conflict with North Korea is a distraction from China, because North Korea would risk extinction if it uses its weapons.

"We're at economic war with China. It's in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow," he said.

Bannon also discussed the political fight he's waging against more traditional economic voices within the administration.

"That's a fight I fight every day here," he said. "We're still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council Chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying."

But some of the most newsworthy elements of the interview were Bannon's thoughts on racial identity politics.

"Ethno-nationalism—it's losers," he said. "It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more."

Bannon's comments came just days after open protests by self-identified white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. His disavowal of their ethno-nationalism contrasted importantly with his own economic nationalism, which he believed was the winning strategy against both the alt-right and Democrats.

"The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats,"  he said.

Kuttner noted that, though he had never spoken with Bannon before, he "came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness."

Rumors of Bannon's impending firing have circulated through the media in recent weeks. However, Bannon invited Kuttner to the White House after Labor Day.