Peter Navarro, senior China adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, quoted a fake "expert" to support his claims about Beijing's alleged threat to the American economy in his 2011 book "Death by China."
"Ron Vara" has appeared as a China hawk more than a dozen times in five of Navarro's 13 books, according to the New York Times, giving insights such as "You've got to be nuts to eat Chinese food."
But the "China critic" does not exist, an Australian academic has discovered. Navarro has now confirmed that the "expert" is not real.
All reprints of Navarro's supposedly non-fiction book "Death by China" will alert readers that the quotes from "Harvard-educated economist" Vara are fake, according to Pearson, which owns the book's publisher, Prentice Hall.
Tessa Morris-Suzuki, a professor emeritus of Japanese history at the Australian National University, determined that Vara is a creation based on Navarro himself while researching an article.
"I just looked him up online, assuming he might be some businessman or other, and then he wasn't there. The more I looked, the more I thought this was really strange," she told CNN.
"Then I realized the anagram."
Navarro: It's a 'whimsical device and pen name'
Navarro has admitted to inventing the character, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the outlet that first reported Morris-Suzuki's investigation.
Navarro described "Vara" 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."
Navarro has served as one of Trump's top advisers on the China-U.S. trade conflict since the 2016 presidential campaign. He has also visited China as a representative of the U.S. delegation negotiating potential deals with the Chinese government.