29 February 2020
The United States' efforts to contain China are believed to be drawing silent support from many nations. Photo: AFP
The United States' efforts to contain China are believed to be drawing silent support from many nations. Photo: AFP

Why US has the upper hand in the trade war

Since taking office more than two years ago, US President Donald Trump has shaken up several foreign and trade policies, triggering quite a bit of debate and commotion in Washington.

While Trump’s moves drew mixed reactions in a divided American polity, there was, however, one issue that drew broad support from both the Democrats and the Republicans: taking a tough stance on China.

Recently, Thomas L. Friedman, a prominent US political commentator and author and a champion of globalization, wrote in a New York Times column that “Donald Trump is not the American president America deserves, but he sure is the American president China deserves”.

In other words, what Friedman meant is that China simply had it coming, in getting bullied by an outrageous and unorthodox President Trump.

It is because, as Friedman pointed out, China has been taking full advantage of the world, particularly the United States, ever since it officially became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001 by dumping goods on the global market in order to wipe out competitors, and by forcing foreign enterprises to transfer technologies.

As a result, today China has become big and powerful enough, largely by means of cheating, to upend the global supply chain.

In the face of the growing threat, the US can no longer sit on the sidelines and allow China’s might to grow unchecked, according to Friedman.

As a long-time and influential advocate for globalization, Friedman has chosen to take sides with the unilateralists this time on China, implying that Trump would not meet much resistance as he takes on Beijing.

As we all know, might is always right when it comes to international politics and great power rivalries.

And it seems the US has the upper hand over China in this ongoing rivalry, at least for the time being.

It is because the “China threat” perception has not only become a consensus among the Republicans and the Democrats in the US, there is also the fact that quite a number of foreign allies are also rallying behind Trump in his bid to contain Beijing.

China appears pretty much isolated in the international community in face of the escalating onslaught from the US.

Given the current situation, we believe there is not much that China can do in terms of effective counter-measures.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 29

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal