Ahead of his one-year anniversary of assuming US presidency, Donald Trump is threatening to seek a huge fine against China over its alleged intellectual property theft. Recently, his administration has also ordered a probe of what it calls China’s meddling in US internal affairs.
These moves came after several attempts by the United States to block China’s investments from entering its market, including investments from China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba and from leading Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies.
These protectionist actions, which came just a month after the Trump administration labeled China a strategic competitor in its first National Security Strategy, are neither reasonable nor wise. More importantly, they could backfire.
Ever since the two countries normalized their relationship in the 1970s, their economic and trade cooperation has grown to become a strong adhesive that binds China and the United States ever tighter, and has yielded tangible benefits for the two peoples. Statistics released by the US-China Business Council in January last year show that the China-US economic relationship supported roughly 2.6 million jobs in the United States across a range of industries, among which about 104,000 jobs were created by Chinese investment.
However, it seems that the Trump administration has not been quite impressed by these numbers.
Over the past year, Trump has on many occasions held Beijing responsible for Washington’s huge trade deficits in two-way trade, fumed that his country has been taken advantage of, and vowed to retaliate.
The fact is that the US trade gap with China is a rather complicated issue. Given America’s low savings rate and high-flying consumption rate, Beijing’s trade polices are hardly a major cause.
To solve the long-standing issue, Washington should look for more ways to restructure its economy rather than finding fault with its largest trading partner.
If the Trump White House decides to charge forward with its promised punitive measures against China, Beijing might be forced to take similar moves. A mutually destructive trade war might be ignited.
Despite the US negative behavior, the two countries over the past year have proved that they can manage their disagreements and hold onto the spirit of cooperation.
Following a 100-day action plan, which was initiated during the Mar-a-largo meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump last April, American beef has now been brought back to the dining tables of the Chinese consumers. And in November, deals worth 250 billion US dollars were signed by the two sides during Trump’s first state visit to China. Differences are inevitable, but conflict is not. And any difference or contradiction can and will be addressed through dialogues as long as the two countries have goodwill to work together. Trump has promised to make America great again. However, if pushing China back is his perceived way of delivering it, it could lead him nowhere near his purpose.
Published in Daily Times, January 21st 2018.