Commentary: Is the enemy really China? Perhaps not

Andy Andrew’s letter to DSN (“China is the concern” Aug. 15) started out by suggesting that China should be our main worry but ended by asking if we are hypocrites because the USA meddles in the affairs of other counties, too. I think it’s not so simple as that.

On the meddling question there is a Wikipedia entry entitled “Foreign electoral interventions” listing many countries in which an election experienced interference from another countries. The USA was the worst offender, meddling in 81 foreign elections and second worst was Russia/USSR, meddling in 36 elections.

I don’t sense that our country portrays itself anymore that “WE don’t do sneaky-tricky-cheaty things like THEY do” because most spy-espionage agencies are public ally known or knowable. But back in Cold War days, we were angels with halos.

So, I would say we are not hypocrits. We just complain when THEY do something and keep quiet when WE do something.

Regarding the question of how important China is, a book I read long ago, “Agents of Influence,” by Pat Choate (who campaigned as a vice presidential candidate with Ross Perot for president), explained in great detail how the Japanese government and corporations carried out extensive PR and lobbying efforts in the USA for favorable relations in both business and politics.

Another book, “Trading Places,” by Clyde V. Prestowitz, Jr., says the same thing but in more detail. Back 30 or 40 years ago, Japan was in exactly the same show as China is today. We were running very scary trade deficits for decades and tons of Japanese stuff was coming in. Yes, today, China got rich by being cheaper. American workers got shafted but lots of American importers (e.g. Walmart) made bigger profits. The corporations wanted this situation.

I think Trump is blowing his horn and messing badly with our trade relations with China because he had easy success with the new Canadian and new Mexican trade deals. Now he is betting the house that he can do the same with China so he can brag how omnipotent he is and if it doesn’t work, he will blame Hillary or Obama or somebody else.

From all the economics books I have read, Trump’s tariff strategies are a bad idea. Just as capitalism has business cycles that come regularly, we are due about now for another recession, like it or not.

Adding big tariffs to imports is not only business-inhibiting but it sends a message to the Chinese that will lead them to do more deals with other countries instead of the USA. This will do long-term damage to US-China relations.

In the end it will push together China and Russia, and maybe even other Asian countries, into a new economic block which excludes the USA and that will harm us in the long run.

In recent weeks and months, the financial market data look like they are doubtful about Trump, too. Out of all the economic history that I know about, recessions are basically unstoppable and recoveries happen when they feel like happening. Trade wars are easy only when one party (e.g. USA) is vastly more powerful than the other (e.g. Mexico).

But China is now Number 2 in the world and they can escalate and retaliate further besides stopping purchases of American products or putting retaliatory tariffs on them.

Arthur E. Sowers is a resident of Harbeson.

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