Trump’s Chinese aspersions are nonsense
As usual at US election time, xenophobia strides across the stage in the persona of the major candidates
“You look at what China’s doing to our country in terms of making our product, they’re devaluing their currency and there’s nobody in our government to fight them... they’re using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China.”
- Donald Trump, SCMP, Sept 28
Let me clear the air here. I am not a US citizen and therefore I cannot vote in this presidential election.
But I do not think it an important event anyway.
Yes, the president has the right to start wars in the Middle East on any whim but the money is running low now and not much can be done at home without Congress getting in the way on pay-me-first obstructions.
It is sound and fury signifying, I accept, more than nothing but not much after election day.
As elsewhere, it is mostly about the process rather than the result. It is about people having a focus for discussion of public policy rather than really being able to change it. The weight of government inertia is too great for that.
And, as usual at election time, xenophobia strides across the stage in the persona of the major candidates. Let’s consider this.
Picture your average American citizen dressed, along with ten thousand others, in a ghastly corporate single-piece plastic suit and cap, standing in line at dawn outside of a mile-long production shed, being harangued by a supervisor for quality control lapses and under-production last week.
Then into the shed they all march and silently take their places on the line for what will be a 12-hour shift because the order book is full this week.
Our worker’s job is to clip in the fresh water spray mechanisms of steam irons destined for the shelves of suburban discount malls.
She squirts water into the mechanism’s capsule, holds it up to her finger, presses the spray button and checks her finger. Yes, it is wet. Then she empties the capsule of water, inserts the mechanism in the iron, pushes, click, and puts the iron on the assembly belt.
Next one, fill capsule, press button, check, empty capsule, insert mechanism, click, place on belt, next one, fill capsule, press button, check, empty capsule, insert mechanism, click, place on belt, next one, fill capsule, press button, check, empty capsule, insert, mechanism, click, place on belt, next one, fill capsule, press button, check, empty capsule, insert mechanism, click, place on belt...
Go on, picture a full American citizen doing it all day for barely enough money to eat, doing it in a distant town far from home and rights to any social service, living in a crowded bunkroom with a single 40-watt incandescent bulb between the bunk rows.
And now expand that picture to tens of millions of people doing it. Make them all US citizens. Go ahead. Picture the impossible.
But it is easy enough to picture tens of millions of American citizens benefitting from it. You can see them doing it every day at big box stores, marvelling at the ever lower prices that have made an ever wider range of goods available to them.
“Making our product...” says Trump, but it’s not true. When did anyone last manufacture a smart phone, a microwave or a power washer in the US?
That would have been years ago, if ever, and yet a very big dollop of the profits, perhaps the majority, still goes to US-based corporations in design, licence and royalty fees, promotions, advertising, financing and retail margins. Is it China’s fault that only the well-off in the US continue to benefit?
“Devaluing their currency,” says Trump as if this is cheating rather than the natural reaction to big capital outflows. But it does not matter anyway. The currency of international consumer goods manufacture is the US dollar, not the yuan.
“Using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China,” he says. Nonsense. No politician has ever understood the balance of payments. The money that US consumers spend on China made goods comes right back as capital inflow to the US to keep interest rates down and fund reckless military adventures.
But then Hillary is worse as a warmonger. I’m not there, thank heavens.