Readability

A Chinese Fire Drill

[cap­tion id=“attachment_89216” align=“aligncenter” width=“650”]The Terracotta Warriors from the creation of China The Ter­ra­cotta War­riors from the third cen­tury B.C. under­score the long­stand­ing power of China. (Photo by Chris Harper)[/caption]

For the United States to have an effec­tive pol­icy with China, Amer­i­cans have to stop buy­ing iPhones. Or Apple has to move some of its pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties from China. And a whole lot more.

The trade imbal­ance between the two coun­tries is so out of whack, amount­ing to a deficit of more than $300 bil­lion a year for the United States, that the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment can­not put any sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on China. More­over, the Bei­jing gov­ern­ment owns more than 7 per­cent of the U.S. debt. China has a lot of leverage.

Sanc­tions and tar­iffs usu­ally don’t work. It would help if Apple would move its pro­duc­tion plants from China to South Korea, for exam­ple, but edu­cat­ing con­sumers about the impli­ca­tions of buy­ing Chi­nese prod­ucts might also work.

After vis­it­ing and teach­ing in China dur­ing the past two years, I offer a few insights:

–Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is the most pow­er­ful, polit­i­cally savvy and intel­li­gent leader in recent his­tory.
–The pivot toward Asia under the Obama admin­is­tra­tion has been laugh­able, includ­ing alliances with some dread­ful regimes in Viet­nam, Laos and the Philip­pines.
–China’s so-​called “belt-​and-​road” pro­gram to build infra­struc­ture from main­land Asia to Europe has been a resound­ing suc­cess despite U.S. naysay­ers. For more about the eco­nomic plan, see https://​www​.for​eignaf​fairs​.com/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​s​/​a​s​i​a​/​c​h​i​n​a​-​s​-​i​n​f​r​a​s​t​r​u​c​t​u​r​e​-play
–The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has made the United States a laugh­ing­stock among Chinese.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s recent Asian excur­sion under­lines how poorly the United States is doing. The Chi­nese made him dis­em­bark from the back of the plane. The gov­ern­ment restricted his access to the media, and offi­cials got into a shout­ing match with his aides. The pres­i­dent then got dissed by the gov­ern­ment of Laos and the Philippines.

These inci­dents don’t bode well for any res­o­lu­tion to China’s desire to con­trol eco­nomic and mil­i­tary sway over the South China Sea — an issue that does mat­ter. That route con­trols access to bil­lions of dol­lars in fish­ing, min­er­als and petro­leum for a range of Asian countries.

The most recent U.S. pol­icy has been to con­front Chi­nese ves­sels — an approach that is likely to heighten ten­sions rather than lessen them.

Nei­ther pres­i­den­tial can­di­date offers much hope in deal­ing effec­tively with China. Clin­ton is likely to con­tinue gun­boat diplo­macy, while Trump wants tar­iffs against Chi­nese prod­ucts. These inept approaches are trou­bling because China is the lead­ing com­peti­tor of the United States for the hearts, minds and pock­et­books of the rest of the world.


Christo­pher Harper, a recov­er­ing jour­nal­ist with The Asso­ci­ated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Wash­ing­ton Times, teaches media law.

The Terracotta Warriors from the creation of China
The Terracotta Warriors from the third century B.C. underscore the longstanding power of China. (Photo by Chris Harper)

For the United States to have an effective policy with China, Americans have to stop buying iPhones. Or Apple has to move some of its production facilities from China. And a whole lot more.

The trade imbalance between the two countries is so out of whack, amounting to a deficit of more than $300 billion a year for the United States, that the American government cannot put any significant pressure on China. Moreover, the Beijing government owns more than 7 percent of the U.S. debt. China has a lot of leverage.

Sanctions and tariffs usually don’t work. It would help if Apple would move its production plants from China to South Korea, for example, but educating consumers about the implications of buying Chinese products might also work.

After visiting and teaching in China during the past two years, I offer a few insights:

–President Xi Jinping is the most powerful, politically savvy and intelligent leader in recent history.
–The pivot toward Asia under the Obama administration has been laughable, including alliances with some dreadful regimes in Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines.
–China’s so-called “belt-and-road” program to build infrastructure from mainland Asia to Europe has been a resounding success despite U.S. naysayers. For more about the economic plan, see https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/china-s-infrastructure-play
–The presidential election has made the United States a laughingstock among Chinese.

President Obama’s recent Asian excursion underlines how poorly the United States is doing. The Chinese made him disembark from the back of the plane. The government restricted his access to the media, and officials got into a shouting match with his aides. The president then got dissed by the government of Laos and the Philippines.

These incidents don’t bode well for any resolution to China’s desire to control economic and military sway over the South China Sea—an issue that does matter. That route controls access to billions of dollars in fishing, minerals and petroleum for a range of Asian countries.

The most recent U.S. policy has been to confront Chinese vessels—an approach that is likely to heighten tensions rather than lessen them.

Neither presidential candidate offers much hope in dealing effectively with China. Clinton is likely to continue gunboat diplomacy, while Trump wants tariffs against Chinese products. These inept approaches are troubling because China is the leading competitor of the United States for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of the rest of the world.


Christopher Harper, a recovering journalist with The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times, teaches media law.