Trump is Right to Confront China
America's relationship with China is one of the most important geopolitical issues of the modern era. Those who argue for a more aggressive stance against China are obligated to make the case as compelling as possible because an assertive approach to China has many risks. China abuses the United States in numerous ways that justify President Trump's confrontational approach to the Middle Kingdom. Simply put, the US must punish China for stealing our stuff.
Critics most often try to argue the anti-China position ignores how dependent we, as a country, are on China and how we import so much into the US that these tariffs can only hurt the United States. Yes, the Chinese manufacture many goods for the United States or assemble high tech products for consumption, but the United States is not dependent on China for the underlying high technology. Technology-intensive products such as iPhones are indeed assembled in China and China manufactures memory chips and other common components, but these are not considered exceptionally high tech.
State-owned China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited operates the world's largest merchant fleet (photo credit)
Since we import so many electronic items from China, it would be easy to assume, for instance, that the US relies on China to make the highly advanced central processing units that act as the brains for the manufactured common electronic devices. This misconception that assembling a completed product in a country must mean that country also must be building all the components makes China look more technologically dominant than they actually are in the eyes of pro-China advocates. The US still leads CPU development and many fabrication sites are within the United States.
In fact, the United States remains an economic competitor against China specifically because we independently develop and sell advanced technology products or components. True, our dominance is in fact deteriorating because of the PRC's efforts, but manufacturing and development of cutting edge products, not just CPUs, is still being done within the United States. The US cannot forsake its edge in advance scientific development without losing control of its own economic future.
The overwhelming majority of Chinese imports are derived from long established and well known technologies. If the United States continues to allow the People's Republic of China to steal American intellectual property, then China's ambition of "Made in China 2025" where the world is dependent on China for all cutting edge technology will come true. Advanced cutting edge technologies are the proverbial "crown jewels" of the US economy and we still retain most of these. China still relies on America for advanced technologies, not the other way around.
Yes, we do depend on them for so many other non high tech goods that are fundamental to our prosperity and this is where the potential cost of fighting back comes into play. However, unlike cutting edge technology, companies can migrate most of these industries outside of China. There is no secret knowledge to build screwdrivers, lawn mower blades, or cell phone frames or even the memory chips assembled in China so production of such goods can be relocated to India, Vietnam, or Malaysia. Continuing to allow the PRC to steal the most valuable foundations of our economy, advanced technology development and implementation of the technology, corrodes our competitiveness. These technologies are always cheaper to sell on the global market when the seller just had to steal the merchandise from others who spent time and money doing the actual development. Since stolen technology is cheaper to sell, China uses its unfair advantage to drive down the US share of the global market.
Many pro-China trade proponents proclaim free market principles against governmental economic interventions, but these pro-traders ignore the illiberal economic practices of the Chinese government and their state owned enterprise cohorts. Even pro-trade libertarian think tanks and academics acknowledge the PRC steals hundreds of billions of dollars in American technological and intellectual property. I have never read a cogent argument on why the US government needs to respect private property rights of US citizens but the PRC is allowed a free pass. Why do pro-China traders embrace foreign totalitarian abuse of our citizens?
Recent developments have shown American political parties on both sides of the aisle demonstrating unusual unity against China because we are being bled to the point that it endangers the interests of all Americans. The threat from the PRC requires genuine discussion that must be broad and beyond the meager forums of the shallow popular media. The economic wellbeing as well as sovereign independence of the United States is potentially involved. The whole point is there is no painless way out of the hole we have dug for ourselves by being addicted to China's mercantilist methods of appropriating our technology in exchange for easy access to Chinese consumers. Keep kicking the can of PRC0engineered American economic decline down the road as some poorer nations have done is not a viable solution if each passing year we weaken and the PRC gains strength.
Aaron Hirschi served in the US Army and formerly worked in the Pentagon, now works in a non-descript Federal building somewhere in Washington, DC.