Right now, Donald Trump is in China hamming it up with the country’s authoritarian leader, President Xi Jinping, if you couldn’t tell by his new very low-res Twitter banner:
In a move to woo over Xi, Trump forced the leader of China to watch a video on his iPad of his granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, singing in Mandarin. Arabella dedicates the video to “Grandpa Xi” and “Grandma Peng” (Xi’s wife). Xi gives the video an “A plus” while Trump states, “Very good right? She’s very smart.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has utilized Arabella as a diplomatic tool—back in April, when Xi visited Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Ivanka brought out her daughter to sing in Mandarin for the world leaders. Ivanka has also trotted her out at the Chinese embassy and posted videos of her singing for Lunar New Year.
The reason why the Trumps keep flaunting Arabella’s language skills is because the strategy works. According to The Washington Post, a post of the latest video on Weibo, China’s version of Facebook, generated 11.69 million views by Thursday evening. “Arabella as a small messenger of Sino-American friendship is deeply loved by the Chinese people. I believe it will also help to narrow the feelings and distance between the peoples of China and the United States,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a news conference.
But there is one actor who is consistently left out of the Arabella-Trump-Xi diplomacy narrative: XiXi, Arabella’s Chinese nanny who taught her how to speak Mandarin in the first place.
As I’ve pointed out before, in the Trumps’ world, XiXi does not exist. She is only mentioned by name once in the entirety of Ivanka’s book, Women Who Work, and that’s only in the acknowledgements section. You could scroll for days on Ivanka’s Instagram feed and not even know that she has employed nannies to take care of her children. And, while Arabella’s grandfather calls her “very smart,” he declines to acknowledge that XiXi is the one who taught Arabella to speak Mandarin even as she was learning to speak English.
We don’t know much about XiXi and I suppose that it is possible (although very implausible) that she has fine working conditions under Ivanka. But the fact is that in Trumpland, XiXi has simply been erased from living memory, despite the fact that the administration is profiting off of her labor on the diplomatic world stage. Rendering XiXi invisible is an integral part to Trump’s racist worldview, allowing him to assert that Arabella’s skills are due to her “good, smart genes” as he once stated in an interview with The New York Times.
All of this is happening while the policies that Trump pushes back home—rescinding DACA, undermining labor protections, cutting back anti-poverty programs—are terrorizing the lives of immigrant domestic workers across the country. But without the very labor that the kleptocracy vilifies, none of Trump’s Arabella-first diplomacy would be possible. Expunging XiXi’s existence from the record is not an oversight—it’s a tool for the wealthy to maintain their power.