On the surface, the recently signed U.S.-China trade deal is another major accomplishment by the Trump administration. For over a year-and-a-half period, the world’s two biggest economies squared off, first with heightened rhetoric and later with tariffs. Each side claimed victory, but the impact was obvious: both countries were hurting.
At the same time, some folks might understandably be cynical about the whole thing. Up until relations started to thaw between Washington and Beijing, the atmosphere was decidedly negative. Clearly, President Trump was playing to his core conservative base. Based on prior foreign policy gaffes, he couldn’t afford to look weak on China.
However, the Democrats relentlessly pursued impeachment against Trump, which dominated liberal-biased mainstream media headlines. Conveniently, the trade deal gives the White House a critical form of credibility, proving that it can get things done in the midst of unprecedented pressure and controversy.
It also takes attention away from the whole impeachment fiasco, akin to “Wag the Dog.”
Furthermore, political experts have weighed in on the trade deal, noting that it’s not a comprehensive victory. For instance, the New York Times wrote that:
The agreement signed Wednesday includes some victories for Mr. Trump: China has committed to buy an additional $200 billion of American goods and services by 2021 and crack down on business practices that the Trump administration has criticized. But text of the accord does not provide enough information to determine how it will work in practice, and it is unclear whether China will interpret it differently than the United States.
Without much meat on the table in terms of contract enforcement, criticism will only grow louder.
Trade Deal Probably Won’t Stop IP Theft
Trade disputes occur frequently in the geopolitical arena. Historically, our relationship with China has never been a benchmark for transparency and fairness. Thus, China being duplicitous was not the main driver for the trade war. Rather, it was the theft of intellectual property or IP.
Over the years, China has catapulted from a largely agrarian based economy to one that is a technological powerhouse. But it’s fair to ask how it got to this point so quickly. In my view – and the opinions of geopolitical experts – the red giant stole its way to the top.
Although this sounds incredibly prejudiced, it’s the reality that we’re dealing with. Back in 2018, the Times published an expose about Chinese government-endorsed IP theft of semiconductor firm Micron Technology. The extent to which China has gone to cheat their way to prominence is shocking but perhaps not surprising.
Unfortunately, the language of the trade deal – while it mentions IP theft vaguely – probably won’t prevent future such incidents. With China, we’re never quite dealing with a full set of moral cards. Therefore, I would not get too comfortable with this détente.