Economy

Selling Out American Exceptionalism

There are some serious implications for our 30-year trade war with Red China.

Arnold Ahlert · May 16, 2019

That Americans are being bombarded by warnings of economic calamity arising from the escalating trade war with China is no accident. For decades, the nation has been sold a globalist bill of goods whereby international trade — regardless of the consequences it engendered domestically — was to be pursued with unrelenting vigor. That we’re getting cheap consumer goods from Communist thugs who wish to rule the world? For the globalists, who also see the nation-state as an anachronism, any moral component attached to “free” trade is irrelevant.

In fact, in a Trump-bashing Washington Post column advocating for an atheist in the White House, Max Boot asks if there’s “any reason to believe that China is a less moral place than the United States.” In a devastating response, columnist Ben Weingarten explains that Boot’s contemptible assertion of moral equivalency is belied by “the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens living in the world’s leading surveillance state,” as well as “the 1 to 2 million Uighurs currently imprisoned in ‘re-education camps’ or countless others held captive for challenging the Party line.” Above it all is Mao Zedong, whose policies killed between 40 and 70 million people — more than Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin combined.

Unfortunately, if we’re restricted to talking about members of the Ruling Class in both countries, Boot has a point. No doubt there are as many Chinese leaders as their American counterparts talking about the net plus of international trade — as in a net plus that benefits the few at the expense of many.

Ordinary Americans? Buy your cheap consumer goods and shut up. If tainted pet food kills Americans’ pets, or defective drywall poses risks to American homes and their owners’ health? “It’s overwhelmingly in our interests that China prosper, that Mongolia prosper, that nations big and large, east and west, in Latin America and in Africa prosper,” said Joe Biden in 2013. “We want everyone to have a little money to make sure they can buy American products.”

Really? Here’s a chart of our trade balance with China from 1985 through March 2019. Note there isn’t a single year where America broke even, much less ran a trade surplus. Thus, it’s Americans who are doing the lion’s share of the buying, while many of the countries to which Biden refers, including China, still pay what amounts to slave wages to their workers. Workers with whom Americans must nonetheless compete to serve the globalist economic agenda. Americans, who as a result, suffered decades of wage stagnation, while the wealth gap between them and the country’s richest people has become so wide, an argument could be made that we’re already living in a plutocracy.

And in line with globalist ambitions, it’s a plutocracy where multinational giants like Google were perfectly willing to collaborate with the Chinese government’s oppression of its own people, until a huge backlash from both inside and outside the company dissuaded them. It’s a plutocracy where hand-writing elitists wonder what kind of hit Apple stock will have to endure because it sells and manufactures iPhones in the Communist gulag.

Ordinary Americans might ask themselves if they’re equally willing to abet the nation a 2018 State Department report on Chinese human rights referred to as one where there are “arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government; forced disappearances by the government; torture by the government; arbitrary detention by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison and detention conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; physical attacks on and criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, writers, bloggers, dissidents, petitioners, and others as well as their family members.”

Our elitists certainly are. In 2010, hack New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wistfully wished we could emulate China “for a day” to “you know, authorize the right solutions” to our problems. As Victor Davis Hanson explains, Thomas and his fellow elitists assumed all Chinese improprieties were “just speed bumps on the eventual Chinese freeway to liberalism. Supposedly the richer China got, the more progressive it would become.” Along the way, the “now-worrisome huge trade deficits and Chinese cheating were further contextualized as ‘our fault,’” Hanson adds.

Thus, the long-held elitist position that American values, often framed as “jingoistic” patriotism, should have no bearing on the free exchange of goods between nations — or worse, that those values are inimical to such exchanges — took hold among those who further insisted that free trade is far more often exercised between consenting non-government actors who shouldn’t be inhibited from pursuing their economic dreams.

Yet does anyone seriously believe anyone in China could trade with anyone else without government approval? As Weingarten reminds us, “The Chinese regime is the dominant force in Chinese society, pervading every aspect of its citizens’ lives.”

Moreover, China’s ambitions couldn’t be clearer. “The U.S. no longer possesses clear military-technical dominance, and China is rapidly emerging as a would-be superpower in science and technology,” said Elsa B. Kania, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, in 2018. She further asserted that Chinese People’s Liberation Army “might even cut ahead of the U.S. in new frontiers of military power.”

Those advances were powered by a military budget that “grew at an average annual rate of 10 percent from 2000 to 2016,” according to a 2019 report published by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

More to the point, Americans financed every bit of it — more than twice over. In 2018, China’s entire military budget was $175 billion. The same year, our trade deficit with China reached $419 billion.

Are cheap consumer goods more important than national security?

It seems the Trump administration knows the answer. As ConservativeTreehouse columnist Sundance explains, the president has been laying the groundwork for “multiple trade alternatives to China” since 2017. “Long before media pundits starting noticing/considering how serious President Trump was about structurally resetting the entire landscape of a U.S-China trade relationship, President Trump quietly and methodically laid the groundwork with personal visits to: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Japan); President Moon Jae-in (S-Korea); President Tran Dai Quang (Vietnam); and President Rodrigo Duerte (Philippines),” he writes.

In other words, an American public told they would be irreparably harmed by a trade war with China will be able to purchase similar products from other nations. Nations with no ambitions to completely rearrange the world order — on totalitarian terms.

It’s about time. Ever since President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, Americans have been assured by administrations from both parties that it’s only a matter of time before China’s emulation of capitalist economics evolved into democratic governance.

It was a mistake then. Forty-seven years and trillions of dollars in deficits later, it’s devolved into self-serving, elitist propaganda.

“Once a nation is hooked on the cheap goods that are the narcotic free trade provides, it is rarely able to break free,” argues Pat Buchanan. “The loss of its economic independence is followed by the loss of its political independence, the loss of its greatness and, ultimately, the loss of its national identity.”

That’s the disease. “Make America Great Again” is the antidote.

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