Steve Bannon says "the economic war with China is everything" and claims he's aiming to oust Trump administration officials who don't agree with his views.
"To me, the economic war with China is everything," Bannon said in a wide-ranging interview with the American Prospect, a liberal website, published Wednesday. "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, the White House chief strategist, suggested that China is not sincere in trying to help contest North Korea's nuclear program, so President Trump should not hesitate to be tougher with Beijing on trade issues.
"We're at economic war with China," Bannon said. "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."
On Monday, the Trump administration announced trade action against China after previously delaying the move to get Beijing on board for sanctions against North Korea. China did approve the new sanctions in a unanimous United Nations Security Council vote earlier this month.
Specifically, Trump ordered the U.S. trade representative to investigate China's behavior on intellectual property rights. This is known as a Section 301 investigation, permitted under the 1974 Trade Act.
Following this investigation, the Trump administration could impose tariffs on Chinese imports, rescind licenses, or take other action.
Bannon, in the American Prospect interview, seemed to say that an investigation of China is not necessary, and Trump should impose sanctions on Beijing immediately.
"We're going to run the tables on these guys," Bannon said of China. "We've come to the conclusion that they're in an economic war, and they're crushing us."
Bannon said that he's trying to act against officials in the State, Defense, and Treasury Departments who don't agree with his views.
"Oh, they're wetting themselves," he said of his opponents in government. "I'm changing out people at East Asian Defense; I'm getting hawks in. I'm getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State."
The Bannon interview comes as Trump is said to be considering firing him. Trump is reportedly resentful of Bannon's vivid media profile, and Bannon has been accused of leaking damaging information about other White House officials, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
In a Tuesday press conference, Trump called Bannon a "good man."
"We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon," Trump said.