Dear Donald –
It’s no secret that, despite numerous business failures, you’ve done one thing incredibly well – monetize your name. You charge companies around the world millions of dollars just to put your name on their buildings and products. In fact, your knack for self-promotion was the only thing that saved you from bankruptcy when your Atlantic City ventures folded. Investors saw that your name and the brand that came with it could be more valuable than the payout they would get by forcing you to liquidate.
However, as with any brand, you’ve got to protect it if you’re going to be able to make money off of it. That’s why you furiously register trademarks and copyright catchphrases. If no one else can use the name, only you make the money off of it.
Then came China. Back in 2006, you started trying to register trademarks in China, including your name. Thre only problem was that a man named Dong Wei already held the trademark. Since then, you’ve been fighting a protracted legal battle to win the trademark for real estate and construction ventures in the country.
In November, you won the election. In December, you took a call from the leader of Taiwan, in direct contradiction if the U.S.’s clear “One China” policy, in place since 1979. The policy, initiated by Jimmy Carter, recognizes Taiwan as a part of China and therefore engages the U.S. diplomatically with Beijing alone. Your call in December, under this policy, was akin to a foreign leader calling a hostile governor to engage in talks rather than the President.
During the blowback from that decision, you said that we wouldn’t necessarily be bound by that policy, potentially throwing our relations with a major international power, and an, at times, adversarial one, into disarray.
Earlier this month, you had a lengthy phone conversation with President Xi of China and, afterwards, agreed to abide by the extant policy.
Now, to date, I haven’t seen any reports that the status of your trademark was explicitly discussed with Xi, but it’s hard to imagine a coincidence in which your shifting stance on the One China policy and the resolution of your trademark case were not related.
I’ve written multiple times before about your family’s use of your office for personal financial gain, and it’s truly despicable. Aside from what, to me, appears to be a clear violation of the emoluments clause, it also puts you, and your finances, at the mercy of Beijing’s whims. Currently, you hold 77 trademarks in China. What happens when you want to take an action against China and they threaten to revoke all of them? Will you go forward, or will you reconsider?
You’ve turned over management of your companies to your sons, but you haven’t divested, meaning that you can still profit from them (or lose money). As a result, you’re exposed to improper financial pressures and the American people can’t be sure whether you’ll be deciding for them, or your bank accounts.