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Trump’s Top China Adviser Quoted a Made-Up Expert in His Books and Can’t Believe We Didn’t Spot It Sooner

Trump's trusted adviser in the trade war with China called his serial fabrication "an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years.”

by David Gilbert
Oct 18 2019, 12:51pm

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

As tense negotiations continue over a possible U.S.-China trade deal, President Donald Trump could ask his trusted trade adviser and China hawk Peter Navarro if he knows of any economist who might be able to provide some much-needed insight.

Perhaps he could call Ron Vara, the Harvard-educated economist Navarro quotes in a number of his books, including his most recent one, “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — A Global Call to Action.”

Could Ron Vara be the key to unlocking the 18-month impasse that has damaged the U.S. economy and caused widespread angst among farmers, workers, and businesses?

Well, no, he couldn’t, because he doesn’t exist.

Ron Vara, an anagram of Navarro, is a completely invented character who appears in a number of Navarro’s books. In “Death by China,” Vara is used to back up claims made in the book, such as accusations of currency manipulation against Beijing, and the allegation that China is deliberately harming Americans with dangerous consumer goods.

Navarro’s fiction was revealed by Australian academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor emeritus of Japanese history at the Australian National University, and first reported in the Chronicle Review earlier this week.

But when the trade adviser was confronted with these revelations, he didn’t appear very contrite.

He told the website that Vara was a “whimsical device and pen name I’ve used throughout the years for opinions and purely entertainment value, not as a source of fact.”

He compared the Ron Vara character to “Alfred Hitchcock appearing briefly in cameo in his movies," and said that it's “refreshing that somebody finally figured out an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years.”

Navarro’s publisher Pearson was less amused,

“We take any breaches of our [strict editorial] standards very seriously and take swift action when one is identified,” the company said in a statement. “In this case, we are amending our current inventory and all future reprints and editions to alert readers that this book contains a fictional character.”

Navarro, who was brought into the administration in 2016, remains one of the president’s most trusted advisers on trade. The White House has yet to comment on Navarro’s fabrications.

Cover: In this March 31, 2017 file photo, National Trade Council adviser Peter Navarro appears before President Donald Trump arrives to sign executive orders regarding trade in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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