Intractably, the new year always brings surprises. However, 2019 is already shaping up to be one of the most contentious years in recent memory. A falling stock market, rising geopolitical tensions, and a split U.S. government are among the top concerns. But perhaps no other issue has greater implications than the China trade war.
Initially, the dispute started as an intellectual-property rights issue. For years, the Trump administration asserted, the Chinese communist government stole proprietary technologies from American firms doing business in China. Naturally, this alleged violation has national security interests. Many tech firms also manufacture products for government and military agencies. A leak could undo years, if not decades of secretive, hard-fought research.
In that light, I believe President Trump is justified in pushing his pro-America/anti-China agenda. As I’ve argued in the past, if we cannot have a fair format for international commerce, no point exists in pursuing strong global ties.
That said, the Chinese hate being called out. Culturally, many Asian countries revere the principle of “saving face.” But with the White House adopting a direct, indelicate approach, the communist party feels embarrassed. From their perspective, the only choice is to ratchet up the China trade war.
Logically, both sides have the same incentive to end the dispute. Yet neither side is blinking, which brings up a worrying prospect: a prolonged economic conflict.
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Deteriorating China Trade War Bolsters the Case for U.S. Global Dominance
Coincidentally (or not), President Trump last month made a stunning move. Rather than listening to his military advisors, he called for an end to the American presence in Syria. In Trump’s view, this pullout represented a victory for the U.S.: we no longer have to play the world’s policeman role.
Instead, the move is a tacit deference to Russia and China. As we move out of foreign affairs and slip towards a national-centric policy, we actually trashed decades of foreign-policy achievements. You see, if the U.S. doesn’t play the policeman role, someone else will. As much as it burdens us, the matter is binary: either good people step up, or evil takes over.
Pointedly, the China trade war offers us a real-time lesson. The communists have refused to back down because they’re testing us. While we engaged in many bloody and ultimately fruitless military campaigns, the Chinese invested heavily in their infrastructure. Now that they’re landing rovers onto the dark side of the moon, they know they have the right stuff.
The question is, how do they stack up against the U.S.?
In reality, the China trade war represents more than just nearer-term economic interests. Growing in stature and confidence, China will likely test us our patience and limitations. This is one of the reasons why the Trump administration is wrong about its new foreign policy.
Policing the world is an unwanted but necessary responsibility. Like a virus gone wild, a failure to nip things in the bud can create disastrous results.
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