US president Donald Trump spent most of his time on the campaign trail blaming China for a “wanton manipulation” of their currency by devaluing the yuan and “robbing Americans” of money and jobs—a claim that puzzled economists and business executives alike, because it hadn’t been true for about a decade.
Egged on by a group of China advisers who harkened back to the Cold War era, Trump pledged to label Beijing’s government currency manipulators on “day one” of his presidency. But he has been mostly mum on the topic since the inauguration, and the topic didn’t appear to come up when China’s president Xi Jinping visited last week.
On Wednesday he said he had completely changed his mind.
“They’re not currency manipulators,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal (paywall) about China in an interview. He changed his mind because China hasn’t been manipulating its currency “for months,” the Journal reported, and because he wanted to work with Beijing on containing North Korea.
Even that timeframe isn’t true. China stopped keeping its currency artificially low in about 2007, and has been trying to strengthen it instead for months, to keep money from flowing out of the country.
China has been drawing down its reserves for many months, and spent about $1 trillion in recent years to try to prop up the yuan, as Quartz reported in February. Trump’s tough talk on the campaign trail has not always translated into tough actions as president. So far he has backtracked on forcing Mexico to pay to build a wall on its US border, and on moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.