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Opinion: China’s economic progress is no laughing matter

Maher suggested America has lost an economic war with China, but hasn’t admitted it. He’s not wrong.

  • Wednesday, March 24, 2021 2:43pm
  • Opinion

By Mike Clemens

HBO comedian Bill Maher makes fun of America with his bipartisan insults and biting social criticism while entertaining viewers who sometimes laugh. Recently, Maher suggested that America has already lost an economic war with China, but just hasn’t admitted it.

He’s not wrong. The 2018 book, “China Rx, Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine,” by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh provided congressional testimony.

Many Americans presume that the drugs they put into their body have been guaranteed by their Food and Drug Administration. But how does that actually work when Chinese factories aren’t easily inspected and there is constant pressure to cut costs? It doesn’t.

While many in the U.S. think they’re protected by product liability as part of basic consumer protection, how does that work for products made in China? It doesn’t.

Don’t blame China for its aggressive economic planning and actions. Their centralized government has made clear its long-term desires for national transition toward world domination. How?

Unlike America, China has a strategic economic policy. It buys up sources of raw materials in Africa, South America and elsewhere. With dollars from an increasing trade imbalance, Chinese companies take over businesses and then transfer foreign technology and operations back home.

Since China joined the World Trade Organization, roughly 70,000 American plants have been moved out of the country. U.S. policy perversely rewards corporations who move their business overseas, but Main Street pays a price.

America’s corporations now consider shareholder profits their highest goal. They used to consider communities, employees, customers, and their country as stakeholders. No longer. Since then, CEO salary and benefits have increased tenfold while rank-and-file workers lost purchasing power if they had jobs at all.

America’s problems didn’t happen overnight and resulted from bipartisan blunders which now may be irreversible in a “fix the blame, not the problem” political environment. Further, connected corporate lobbyists have access to many in Congress who depend on fund-raising for their re-election expenses.

Why should Chinese trade policy concern Americans? The recent COVID-19 pandemic revealed U.S. dependence on China. While our press might be able to do investigative journalism in a free country, it can’t in a society which is not transparent to outsiders. As a controlled society China allows others to know only what it wants them to know while it sometimes plays economic hardball.

In one geo-political dispute, China stopped importing bananas from the Philippines. After bananas rotted, the dispute was “resolved” and trade resumed.

In another geo-political dispute, China stopped exporting rare-earth minerals to Japan. Since Toyota depends on such imports to build its cars and had to stop production, the dispute was “resolved” and trade resumed.

Don’t blame China for its trade policy or its efforts to corner specific markets and then cut costs; that’s strategic planning. But, think about what’s next.

Effective monopolies allow price control. Further, the U.S. used to have a policy on national defense trade. If a potential adversary exported critical goods needed by our military, it would seem unwise to depend upon them during a geo-political conflict. And yet, America has done exactly that with China.

U.S. policy makers have forgotten history. Americans have now become long-term hostages to short-term corporate profits that increasingly belong to foreign-owned companies and their countries.

While China can be blamed for industrial espionage, for stealing trade-secrets, and for voluntarily requiring foreign partners to share technology, their economic play-book has been transparent to those who know where to look.

Many Americans don’t realize the U.S. has already lost the strategic trade-war with China. When the World Trade Organization let China join, they bought a trojan horse. Instead of opening Chinese markets to American products and reducing the $80 billion trade deficit, that trade deficit ballooned six times which allows China to then buy America’s companies and move plants to their owner country.

Most Americans don’t understand policies that created the current crisis. Sadly, after a fiscal autopsy, it’s too late for Main Street and there usually isn’t sufficient political will to fix the problem, just the blame.

China’s strategic, economic progress is no laughing matter.

• Mike Clemens is a former statewide budget analyst. He resides in Juneau. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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