Alexander's Column

Trump Is NOT 'Starting a Trade War' With China

For the record, the U.S. has been the target of a very costly and perilous trade war with China for decades.

Mark Alexander · May 22, 2019
“War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations…to treat us with justice.” –Thomas Jefferson (1797)

The United States has been in a trade “long war” with Red China for some three decades. This war involves an ever-growing trade deficit due to China’s unwillingness to open its markets, as well as its blatant and continual theft of our technology and intellectual property.

To suggest, however, that we’re actually “in” this war is an overstatement. The truth is we have been a cowering target of those attacks — until Donald Trump took command.

For years, American political leaders have been incrementally surrendering to Chinese economic weapons of war — selling out American exceptionalism and betraying American workers and their families. The result now is a catastrophic example of the “boiled frog” fable, wherein a frog is put into tepid water that is then slowly brought to a boil, with the incremental danger being imperceptible until it’s too late.

A quick review of our disgraceful trade-deficit record with China illuminates how we ended up in this untenable position. In exchange for a market that has for years been flooded with cheap Chinese goods, American politicians have empowered Communist China to become the greatest existential threat to our national security.

Not surprisingly, Trump is the first president with the political courage to fight back, and that fight is long overdue.

As I noted last year, “The day Trump arrived in DC, he dropped a bomb on the status quo in Congress and its special interests. He dropped a bomb on the regulatory behemoths and their bureaucratic bottlenecks. He dropped a bomb on the trade and national security institutions and alliances that failed miserably over the previous eight years. And he dropped a bomb on all the pundits and mainstream media outlets.”

I deliberately mentioned “trade and national security” in the same context for a reason — the two are indelibly linked. (More on that below.)

The Trump administration has been ratcheting up the pressure on China to work toward more balanced trade deals. But because China reneged on terms it had agreed to during earlier negotiations, on 10 May Trump ordered an increase of tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports — from 10% to 25%.

Accordingly, the Chinese reciprocated, betting that in two years they’ll have another cupcake in the White House — a president who’ll do what past presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have done: fold. As Trump noted, “The reason for the China pullback and attempted renegotiation of the Trade Deal is the sincere HOPE that they will be able to ‘negotiate’ with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to rip-off the United States ($500 Billion a year) for years to come.”

Based on Biden’s popularity, his history of pandering to and placating China, and the prospects for what I believe will be a Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket in 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping is taking decent odds.

China knows Biden plays checkers, while Trump is a chess master. Indeed, Robert Gates, who was an Obama/Biden secretary of defense for three years, says, “I think [Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

The current trade battle will be more arduous than the domestic battles Trump has undertaken to, demonstrably, Make America Great Again.

Of course, our historical resistance to engage and fight China is due to three BIG advantages they enjoy in the conduct of the ongoing trade war.

First, because we hold free elections, the Chinese are able to target their tariff countermeasures to do the most political damage to politicians representing particular economic sectors, like agriculture. At the same time, Communist Chinese leaders face no political recourse from the Chinese people over the impact of their policy decisions.

Second, because Democrats are trying to undermine Trump’s economic agenda with their now-unending threats of impeachment in order to undermine confidence in Trump, inducing an economic recession (and thereby enhance their presidential prospects in 2020), they are also undermining our strength to negotiate trade on a level playing field.

Third, because we have a “free press,” the Red Chinese and Democrats can pursue their strategies with the full aid and comfort of the mainstream media, which is, itself, in relentless open and hostile warfare with Trump and Republicans.

In World War II, the enduring idiom of “loose lips sink ships” was a warning for Americans to avoid careless talk that could be picked up by the enemy and used against us. In the case of our trade war with China, loose Democrat and Leftmedia lips are sinking the prospects of increasing the number of American cargo ships bound for China.

The fact is, this is much more than a tit-for-tat trade war. It is an epic battle over the theft of millions of American jobs, and the theft of war-fighting technology, which poses a much greater cybersecurity threat than any threat posed by Russia.

It is a rapidly emerging battle for the future of American Liberty, and Trump is no longer going to play nice with Chinese leaders or their NoKo nuclear puppet Kim Jong-un, whom they have used as a bargaining subterfuge to contain Trump’s threatened trade sanctions.

And that is why, as noted above, I mentioned “trade and national security” in the same context.

Retired Admiral William McRaven, former head of U.S. Special Operations Command, observed that “Trump does not get enough credit” for his foreign policy decisions. “Engaging with North Korea was the right thing to do. … China has got to be pressured; China has got to be held accountable.”

Even Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared of the latest tariff increase, “We have to be strong with [China]. … We ought to hang tough.”

In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned, in large part, on the need for a long-overdue correction of grossly unbalanced trade practices and agreements, primarily with China. But his concern was clearly as much about national security as it was trade and jobs.

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy, the fundamental position statement under which American foreign policy is formulated under each president, departed significantly from previous administrations regarding the reliance on declining “liberal alliances” of the past (such as NATO and various trade agreements and treaties). Instead, the Trump NSS relies on what the administration calls “principled realism” in four key policy areas: protecting the homeland; promoting American prosperity; preserving peace through strength; and advancing American influence.

On the first page of the NSS, the administration notes, “Unfair trade practices had weakened our economy and exported our jobs overseas.”

The NSS makes clear that China is a primary challenger to “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”

It notes further, “For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. … Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America’s world-class universities. … Today, they are fielding military capabilities designed to deny America access in times of crisis and to contest our ability to operate freely in critical commercial zones during peacetime.”

Fortunately, even some of the most entrenched American scholars on China are awakening to the dangers, and their assessment is in line with the Trump administration’s NSS.

Stanford University’s Hoover Institution convened a distinguished group of China scholars, who issued a report on the current state of affairs with China. James Mulvenon, a renowned expert on Chinese economic espionage, summed up their revised perspective on China: “It speaks to the disillusionment of an entire generation of China specialists who thought they were helping China emerge onto the world stage only to discover that the project had gone badly awry.” Similarly, Winston Lord, Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to China, whose expertise began when he was a key adviser to Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, concluded, “All of us have become more pessimistic about [China’s] trends.”

But their collective assessment will fall on deaf socialist Democrat Party ears if the American people fail to reelect Donald J. Trump.

China isn’t using traditional weapons of war against the United States. It’s using economic weapons of war. But make no mistake: The gross imbalance of U.S. dollars flowing into China right now is being used to acquire, develop, and produce advanced weapons of war. The sole purpose of those weapons is to help secure a future in which China is not just the world’s dominant economic power but its dominant power, period.

Bombs may not be dropping, but we are at war. Just wars have always required economic sacrifice. This war, if we are going to engage, will require economic sacrifice. The question is: Do we have the national will to make the sacrifices now, or, in the name of political expedience, will future generations of Americans be forced to sacrifice much more than curbing the quantity of cheap products?

George Washington warned, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.” We should heed that timeless advice as it pertains to the now-impending threat of Chinese imperialist totalitarianism.

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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