China’s foreign ministry slammed White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Tuesday following his admission that he cited a nonexistent person in his books to bolster his arguments about Beijing’s threat to the US economy.
Navarro, who has been a key player in President Donald Trump’s trade talks, acknowledged last week to CNN and others that he made up an alter ego using an anagram of his own name, “Ron Vara,” in his books.
“Certain people in the US can do whatever they can think of to contain and smear China without scruple,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in a press conference Tuesday.
The spokesperson went on to say that “such moves will threaten and undermine normal international relations and order.”
“The US will hurt its own interests in the end,” the spokesperson said.
Navarro on Tuesday dismissed the criticism from Beijing, again making light of his Vara alias in a statement: “A source close to Ron Vara indicates China has revoked his visa and lowered his social credit score. In a related event, the Ministry of State Security has banned all anagrams and humor in social media and non-fiction books.”
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
The Vara alias is quoted in at least six of Navarro’s books, including in “The Coming China Wars” from 2008. Australian academic Tessa Morris-Suzuki made the discovery, which was first reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education last week.
Navarro wrote that Vara was a captain in a reserve unit during the Gulf War as well as a doctoral student in economics at Harvard University in the US. He also wrote that Vara “made a very large fortune making the very best out of very bad situations.”
Morris-Suzuki said that as she read through Navarro’s books, the most recent of which have focused heavily on China, Ron Vara began to express increasingly anti-Beijing views in his works.
In one book, Vara is quoted as saying, “You’ve got to be nuts to eat Chinese food.”
In a statement provided to CNN, Navarro admitted to inventing the character of Ron Vara, describing it as a “whimsical device and pen name,” purely for “entertainment value.” He added that it was “refreshing that somebody finally figured out an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years.”
One of the publishers of Navarro’s books, Prentice Hall and its parent company, Pearson, said in a statement that the fake persona constituted a breach of their ethical standards. According to NPR, future editions of his work will include a note indicating that “Ron Vara” is a not an actual person, but an alias for Navarro.
Navarro, an academic, has been one of Trump’s top advisers on trade matters since his 2016 presidential campaign.
The longtime China hawk is considered among the architects of the Trump administration’s trade war with Beijing and has been regularly part of the US delegation sent to negotiate a potential deal with the Chinese government.
Navarro has strongly defended Trump’s tariffs on China, saying they’re needed to at least partially separate the two economies. He has repeatedly accused Beijing of currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and inflicting severe damage on the US manufacturing industry.