The president on Monday signed a memorandum that could lead to a trade investigation of alleged Chinese theft of intellectual property. That came as Trump presses for China's cooperation in reining in North Korea's nuclear program.
"To me," Bannon told the magazine in a phone call, "the economic war with China is everything. 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."
"We're at economic war with China," Bannon reportedly 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."
Bannon added there is "no military solution" to North Korea due to the large population in Seoul. That appeared to contradict Trump's previous threat of "fire and fury" against Kim Jong Un's country.
Trump's chief strategist also attacked the mindset that motivates white supremacists, describing the group as "clowns" amid the ongoing fallout from violent protests in Charlottesville.
When Bannon was asked by the U.S. magazine whether there was a link between the economic nationalism that he supports and the white nationalism seen in Charlottesville, he replied, "Ethno-nationalism - it's losers."
"It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more... These guys are a collection of clowns," he added.
According to an Axios report, Bannon did not intend to do an "interview" when he spoke over the phone with an American Prospect editor.
But as Axios reports it, the fallout from the publication could be significant for the chief strategist: "Since Steve apparently enjoys casually undermining U.S. national security, I'll put this in terms he'll understand: This is DEFCON 1-level bad," said an Axios source described as "one of Bannon's colleagues — somebody who's not an enemy of his."