August 9, 2019

CONRAD BLACK: Trump Plays Long Game On China.

This is the time to have a nonviolent showdown, which will require reform, at least insofar as they apply to the United States, of Chinese practices in “forced technology transfer and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade.” China purported to agree on all this in April but declined to consider any enforcement mechanism.

This is a familiar Chinese method of negotiating, which has been imitated by the North Koreans. If there is a reason for optimism in the present raucously antagonistic American political atmosphere, it is that the Democrats have generally supported the president in these positions, indicating that the old adage that “partisanship ends at the water’s edge” retains some applicability.

Yet the stock response of the president’s reflexive critics in the press is an absurd solicitude for their country’s principal rival, a chronic cheat in world trade matters by universal agreement. China is a poor country with few resources while the United States, with a year to retool and reorient itself, would not have to import any necessities except perhaps small quantities of rare earths.

China still has 300 million people who live pretty much as they did 2,000 years ago, a 40% command economy, no institutions that command any respect except the People’s Army; and not a word or figure it publishes about its economy can be unreservedly believed. It is trying an end run around the entire world economic system at the same time that it asserts itself with conjoined military and economic expansionism in susceptible areas.

Of course this president will save China’s “face” if that’s what it comes to, but in contrast to all the havering ninnies in the Economist and like-minded places, the strongest cheering section President Trump enjoys in the execution of his China policies consists of China’s neighbors: Vietnam, India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia.

I’ve been referring to it as “decoupling,” the undoing of the unhealthy Frankenstein creature Niall Ferguson labeled “Chimerica.” There will be more bumps along the way, as in any contested divorce, which makes me wish that President Trump would do a better job of articulating his strategic vision. But what he’s doing is absolutely necessary, both geopolitically and economically.

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