As the US and Canada remained locked in intense trade negotiations, which both US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said could see a breakthrough by Friday, the trade war with China has been put into auto-drive.

That is not for lack of a sincere desire to negotiate on the part of Beijing, prominent Chinese academics said recently, as quoted by Germany’s Die Welt. The problem, they seemed to agree, was the fact that there was no concrete contact from the Trump administration with whom to negotiate.

The Americans should just “say what they want,” said Yu Yongding, a respected economist and former top academic at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). “But I’m afraid they cannot even do that.” Trump is just too “self-absorbed,” Yu added, noting that the US president’s attention had shifted to the midterm elections in early November.

Yu, who has also served as a policy adviser at the People’s Bank of China, went a step further to call Trump “weird,” describing some of his decisions as “idiotic.”

According to Die Welt, CASS issued a rare invitation for journalists to interview nine economists and policy experts at the government think-tank’s Institute for American Studies. In conversations, the academics were eager for reporters to “write about it!” China wants “serious negotiations,” they said.

Wu Baiyi, the director of the institute, made clear that the problem for the Chinese was Trump’s mercurial nature. He undercut his own negotiators after they made a deal to avert a tariff tit-for-tat in May, and Wu said the US president “is not consistent with his own words.”