Jake's View

This Christmas, Americans would do well to remember who they owe their gifts and prosperity to

Few Americans get the interconnections of the global economy. They are told by their president and his shills to bite the hands that give them all their gifts and prosperity.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 11:28am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 11:15pm

There is consensus in Washington that China’s economic policy is unfair and there are violations of many WTO and bilateral commitments. In the coming months we are going to see a lot of rhetoric translate into actions that try to push China to address concerns of the US in economic policies.

Scott Kennedy, Centre for Strategic and International Studies

SCMP, December 19

Is it true that China has broken the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and many bilateral commitments?

It would not surprise me. The way things are seen in Beijing, China must sign up for these international trade arrangements or see the access of its export industries to many world markets restricted, or even denied.

But Beijing reads “American”, where others see the word “international”, and is rightly suspicious of American imperialism. It has the example of much of Latin America to think of, and it will not be made another coffee, sugar, copper or banana republic enslaved to US interests. One Batista Cuba was enough.

China is also worried that its nascent industries will never emerge from the cradle if they are pushed back into it by the much stronger offspring of American corporations allowed to operate in China. Thus where technology is concerned, the WTO gets only lip service. All else is polite defiance.

And it is not as if the United States is itself guiltless. Its own industrial emergence was heavily based on the theft of European inventions, its railroad barons repeatedly cheated their European investors and its Smoot-Hawley tariff of the 1930s is still a byword for trade repression across the world.

So, if the pot wants to call the kettle black, all I can say is that the pot was blackened first and both of them could do with a mighty scouring.

But when you hear protest from Washington shills who hide in supposedly independent “think tanks” and pretend they are not the mouthpieces of the US State Department, I believe a few more things need to be said.

For one, particularly at this time of year, if Santa Claus had not moved from the North Pole to Guangdong province and traded in his reindeer for the 100,000 tonne container variety that pass every few minutes through the channel outside my home, where would American children be in four days’ time?

We are talking of 125 million households that all require brightly wrapped boxes of hugely varied consumer rubbish under their Christmas trees. Only China can make it all and get it there on so tight a schedule. Say “thank you,” Mr Kennedy.

And China does more than just get it there. Look at the evidence of the chart for how “hugely” it has reduced the retail prices of toys in America. Say “thank you” again, Mr Kennedy.

Please remember also, that it was not a painless gift. Some 160 million citizens of China, who do not have residence permits for the places they live, and are therefore entitled to no public services, are exploited for long hours at very low wages, far from home, to make it all.

Few US citizens would want to share those living and working conditions. Even fewer take any note of where thanks are due. They are rather told by their president and his “think tank” shills to bite the hands that give them all this.

And when the money that US citizens pay for these goods then comes right back to them as investment in hundreds of billions of dollars, allowing them record low interest rates and massive public spending, they complain that China is taking them over.

“Rhetoric translates into actions” was it, Mr Kennedy? Enjoy your Christmas gifts.