WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The editor-in-chief of a Chinese state-run newspaper on Thursday (Oct 17) criticised White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for quoting a fictitious anti-China economist in his books, and said it raised questions about his counsel to US President Donald Trump.
But Mr Navarro said in a statement that the name he used was "a whimsical device and pen name I've used throughout the years for opinions and purely entertainment value, not as a source of fact".
The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that Mr Navarro invented and quoted an economist named Ron Vara.
It said that according to emeritus professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki of Australian National University, Vara's name had appeared a dozen times in six of Mr Navarro's non-fiction books, but no such person could be found.
"This is shameless fabrication. Navarro cheated his readers. Who knows if he also misled the US President," Mr Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People's Daily of China's ruling Communist Party, said in a Twitter post.
Mr Navarro acknowledged in his statement that "Ron Vara" was an anagram for "Navarro" and went on to say that "it's refreshing that somebody finally figured out an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years".
The White House declined comment.
The United States and China have been locked in a trade war for more than a year and the Global Times has repeatedly criticised Mr Navarro, who has advocated a hard line against Beijing. Washington and Beijing have levied punitive duties on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other's goods, roiling financial markets and threatening global growth.