Who Is “Mr Pillsbury,” Trump’s Favorite China Authority?
re: #22 dog philosopher ஐஒஔ௸
i just have to come to terms with the fact that millions of people can’t tell how utterly moronic this sounds
“From what I hear, if you look at Mr. Pillsbury, the leading authority on China … he was saying that China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain. He said, Donald Trump, they don’t know what to do,” Trump said.
Who is this “Mr Pillsbury, the leading authority on China”? Trump may be overstating Pillsbury’s preeminence among China experts, but Pillsbury has been around DC for a very long time. A China hawk, he’s often invited as a pundit on various news and analysis programs. He’s written several books.
But not everyone is enamored of him. I found this critique of his scholarship cited in his Wikipedia entry.
While Pillsbury has achieved prominence within the Defense Secretary’s office, many defense experts within the military, government agencies, and universities reject his scholarship as tendentious at best, and their professional distaste is heightened by personal dislike. “Brilliant” and “charming” are words frequently used by acquaintances to describe Pillsbury, but so are “combative,” “conspiratorial,” and “ruthless.” His career has been one of numerous short-lived jobs, at least three dismissals, and a revoked security clearance.
On this spectrum of opinion, Pillsbury dwells on the far-hawkish end. Where others view China’s intentions as complicated, Pillsbury says that Beijing views the United States as an “inevitable foe.” (“He makes simple what is not simple,” says Mark Pratt, a former State Department official who has known Pillsbury for over 30 years.) Where others debate the merits of hedging, Pillsbury feels that things haven’t gone far enough. “The U.S. can do much more to hedge in the next few years if the Chinese do not end their excessive military secrecy and begin to reassure their neighbors,” he recently told The Wall Street Journal. And where nearly everyone agrees that China is far behind the United States in military capacity, Pillsbury has been among the first, and the few, to argue that Beijing is preparing for an asymmetric military conflict with the United States in which it would draw on secret “assassin’s mace” weapons. The term “assassin’s mace,” more commonly translated as “trump card” (shashoujian) is, according to Pillsbury, integral to a Chinese notion of “inferior defeats superior.” (The Pentagon’s most recent annual report to Congress on China’s military from May 2006 includes the term, mentioning Chinese efforts to exploit “perceived vulnerabilities of potential opponents—so-called Assassin’s Mace [sha shou jian] programs.”) An “assassin’s mace” might take the form of a computer application, for instance, that would take over an enemy information system, rendering a foe the victim of his own dependence on technology. In Pillsbury’s telling, China intends to leapfrog ahead in battle readiness by using assassin’s-mace weapons to find breaches in U.S. armor. Moreover, he implies, they could be ready at any time.
But the true difference between most experts and Michael Pillsbury appears to lie somewhere else: namely, in the scholarship. With the exception of Chinese Views of Future Warfare, which is a straightforward compilation of translated essays, Pillsbury’s work over the past decade has become increasingly speculative and dubious. In particular, a close examination of his writings reveals a troubling approach to evidence and primary sources.
A case in point is Pillsbury’s paper “China’s Military Strategy Toward the U.S.: A View from Open Sources” from November of 2001. The piece names numerous Chinese military writings, including an article entitled “Twenty-first Century Naval Warfare” by Naval Captain Shen Zhongchang, Naval Lieutenant Commander Zhang Haiying, and Naval Lieutenant Zhou Xinsheng of the Chinese Navy Research Institute. According to Pillsbury, the article is written to show “how China could adopt several asymmetrical approaches to defeating a larger and more powerful navy,” and one of them “will be for China to attack American naval command and information systems.” (Underlined boldface Pillsbury’s.)
But Pillsbury’s footnotes lead to an essay that never discusses how China fits into future naval warfare, much less any sort of hypothetical attack on the United States. (The essay even appears in Pillsbury’s 1997 book, translated into English.)
The article also suggests that his career has been an example of “failing upward,” as he tended not to stay long at any one post, but still managing to find a nominally better job. Also, his translations from Mandarin is shaky at best. And he took some liberty in stating he was an heir to the Pillsbury flour fortune, when in fact he’s from another branch of the same family. Like many other conservative scholars whom conservative politicians love to cite, his credentials are not as bullet-proof as they would like us to believe.
IOW, just the kind of person Trump would like, and who would like Trump back.
Postscript: In fact, Pillsbury apparently made no reference to Trump’s brain, or any other well known body part. Bloomberg reported that he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Chinese leaders viewed Trump as “superior to the last ‘five or six’ presidents.”
That would be all the presidents since Gerald R. Ford, who include a nuclear engineer (Carter), two Yale graduates (Bush pere et fils), a Rhodes Scholar (Clinton), and a Harvard law graduate (Obama). I would argue their brains are not too shabby (well, not sure about W’s, tbh).
Also, given the Washington Monthly’s critique of Pillsbury’s translation skills, the Chinese may have been saying something entirely different.