• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Targeting China: It’s About Politics Not Trade


Trade? It’s no big deal. Politics? That’s the issue.

The trade spat between the United States and China isn’t about deficits or tariffs. It’s about Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan.

The view from Beijing is that Republicans and Democrats are united in the bogeyman belief. Someone to blame. The China threat. Donald Trump’s anti-China message helped him win these states, and he knows that the path to the Oval Office door runs through them again in 2020.

Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama believed that

China’s integration into the global economy would lead it to democratize and US dominance at Beijing’s doorstep in East Asia would continue. It was a miscalculation that bordered on the naïve. Domestically, China has been increasingly repressive since Xi Jinping became president but its economy has gradually opened up.

The US Chamber of Commerce in 2018 said in a study on intellectual property that “unlike many of its developing economy peers, China is making concrete progress in building a 21st century national IP environment.”

The reason for his is not based on altruism but on reality.  Chinese companies have grown better at invention. Consequently, Beijing has a stake in creating (albeit slowly) a legal system that protects inventions from being ripped off. China is making the very transition that previous US presidents hoped it would. But politically it’s better to target China. The politics of distraction. Be tough on China, never run the risk of being soft on Beijing. Reds under the bed. Hardly surprising as they probably made it in the first place, along with your computer, electrical appliances and your clothing.

Beijing has one great fear, the “middle-income trap”. This could trigger instability. The unwritten agreement between Beijing and the Chinese people is you stay out of politics, we’ll make it worth your while. This means that rising wages must not undermine the advantage of China as a center of low-cost manufacturing before it develops the capacity to produce higher-value goods. Assembling, the rationale goes, must be replaced by invention otherwise economic growth will stagnate and popular unrest will follow.

Beijing controversially requires many American companies to create joint ventures with Chinese firms in order to sell to Chinese consumers. How could they? It’s akin to stealing. A White House report last year cited these joint ventures as evidence of “how China’s economic aggression threatens the technologies and intellectual property of the United States and the world.”

But this is not unusual. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, which last year ranked 50 countries on how well they protect the intellectual property of foreign companies, China was above Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, and the Philippines, just below Mexico and six places under Canada.

Beijing does not deny that its rise has cost Americans jobs. But it also points out that it produces goods that millions of Americans benefit from at a lower cost.  A better safety net for Americans, retaining health care if they become unemployed, retraining programs, an option to be able to send your children to college without incurring massive debt, would greatly lessen hardship in the world’s leading economy. These, surely are the issues that should be addressed with at least as much vigor as tariffs on Chinese goods. China too has problems, many of them similar to those of Americans. High medical costs, exorbitant college fees, inadequate social security and migrant workers from rural areas who are denied basic services after they arrive in major cities looking for work. But it has brought the vast majority of its population out of dire poverty. In the 1960s, US President Lyndon Johnson launched what he called America’s “War on Poverty”. His ultimate goal was to ensure that all children, “whatever the economic condition of their parents, can start life with sound minds and bodies”. He had a slogan for his war: “The richest nation on Earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

China has lifted 800 million people out of the miseries of extreme poverty, more than anywhere else in the world. Between 1990 and 2005 it accounted for more than 75 percent of global poverty reduction and is the reason why the world reached the UN millennium development goal of halving extreme poverty. The country’s goal is to completely defeat poverty by 2020. Ambitious, certainly, but what a goal to set.

The China threat has galvanized American politicians.  China is not perfect, far from it, and it has challenges that it must overcome. Does it try to use trade to its own advantage? Certainly. Is it alone in this? Certainly not. It is changing and no one can say for sure how these changes will play out. But China is not America’s problem. It may even be part of the solution. You won’t hear that on the campaign trail.


More articles by:

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)