The trade war between China and the U.S. entered a new phase on July 6 when the U.S. imposed new tariffs on $34 billion of China’s goods. This trade war and the attacks against China are not new. Indeed, during his election campaign, Trump promised to tackle the Chinese threat. He kept his promise. Last January, he began his trade war slowly against China by introducing tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. Since then, the trade war with China has grown by leaps and bounds, impacting his allies (Canada and the European Union) as well, who are now considered his foes. Shocked and outraged, the latter have retaliated, which is not boding well for future international relations.
International Relations: Maintaining good relations or no, that is not the question!
On October 30, 1947, the U.S., along with twenty-two other nations including China, founded the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) which is the forerunner of the WTO (World Trade Organization). On January 1st, 1948, GATT entered into effect. The idea was to have an organization that would oversee the multilateral post-world-war trading system. China left the GATT two years later when the CCP took power. In 1995, the WTO replaced GATT; the U.S. remained a member while China became the 143rd member in December 2001.
What is particularly interesting is that the U.S. is the country that has the highest numbers of complaints against it in the WTO. Is this why Trump wants to play havoc in the organization (as he is doing with NATO and the UN to some extent), to exit the organization that is in his line of fire? Will anyone really be surprised if Trump decides to leave the WTO in a huff, with a big show, per his usual?
That said, historically, the U.S. has had symbiotic relations with its Canadian neighbor, complementary relations with Europe, commensal relations with Japan and South Korea (among others), and confrontational relations with the Soviet ‘enemy’ and the communist bloc as part of the Cold War.
Today, all these relationships that have been woven over the past several decades are breaking down because of the Trump effect. Trump sees his allies as enemies, not as economic competitors. The attack on Communist China is a continuum to this behavior. The U.S. knew very well that China is a communist country that has only (relatively) recently opened up to capitalism. Expecting China to become just as liberal capitalist as the West in only 3-4 decades is preposterous, especially considering that its cultural values and historical development for millennia have been revolving around an Asian mode of production that Karl Marx himself qualified as pre-communist mode of production.
Trump has unearthed an old speech, and it is working with his electorate, but it is causing an upheaval abroad. Is this current state of international relations due to his incompetence as a president and/or due to his mentality as a businessman?
Trump: A leopard can’t change its spots!
Trump is primarily a businessman. He never managed to put himself in the shoes of a president, and not just any president! In the shoes of the president of the world’s largest economic and military power! Instead, he has clung to his reactions as a businessman who is facing the competition. For him, the U.S. is a company whose expenses must be rationalized (hence, the cuts in the financing of various local and international programs). Trump remains a prisoner of his mercantilist mentality where everything is seen in terms of deals and financial gains.
Trump does not grasp the fact that there is more than just the economy in the world. He forgets that politics is intertwined with security, peace and human values (e.g., compassion, assistance). Disregarding his civilizational responsibility, Trump is one-dimensional; dollars are what matter for him at the end of the day. Trump’s outlook clashes with globalization and post-modern society, as well as with the principles of economic liberalism and of international organizations. One wonders then where he is going with these actions and this trade war.
Trump: China is the enemy to overcome. Delenda est China!
Trump keeps hammering that he wants to ‘Make America Great Again’ at a time when China is the second world economic power, a power that continues its conquest of the world at a good cruising speed and which, according to economic forecasts made by Bloomberg, will dethrone the U.S. in 2028-29. The U.S. has not anticipated that the Middle Kingdom would become the world’s factory so quickly and thus will become a serious threat to its hegemony.
Also, China with its Belt and Road Initiative continues to gain ground on all fronts, attracting countries around the world through its investments and ability to deal with under-developed nations to help them achieve projects that will benefit all parties, something the U.S. is not able to do. Indeed, the American economic and technological development is so advanced that it severely handicaps its competitiveness vis-à-vis China because the gap is so vast; the U.S. cannot really help countries that lag way behind. The immediate consequence is that the U.S. is isolated while China is not. This situation does not suit Trump, the competitive businessman, in any way. So, what would be better then than imposing tariffs on Chinese imported goods?
Indeed, these tariffs may offer the opportunity for American companies to produce in the U.S. and boost the local economy. Does Trump want to repatriate American investments made in China (among other countries)? And above all, does he want to take revenge on the past because it is partly thanks to U.S. investments that China has experienced its economic boom since their opening to the world in 1979, thanks to Deng Xiaoping’s policies?
However, as usual, Trump is first red-baiting everyone and then having to face the consequences of his actions — mostly unanticipated consequences.
The world to Trump: ‘One for all and all for one’… Except for one!
By arguing against the principles of economic liberalism and of international organizations, Trump is signing his political death warrant in world history, as China, the EU and the rest of the world will close ranks and continue without the U.S. of Trump. The Trump presidency is and will be an exceptional case in world history that has allowed other countries to become more cooperative with each other and in a more timely manner.
With regards to China, and according to the Confucian precepts (caution and the middle way in everything), China, aware of Lex Talionis consequences (eye for an eye and the world will become blind as Gandhi summarized), will measure its (re)actions and will be open to dialog. China will continue its development thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative. Any reaction to Trump’s attacks will be well thought-out and respectful of China’s dignity and sovereignty to prevent an uncontrollable trade war spiral. In these circumstances, the U.S. will be seen as unreasonable and unreliable by not respecting international agreements, an image that continues to be confirmed day after day. Let’s not forget that in politics, the one who attacks first is usually the one who loses the war. By escalating the trade war, Trump is slowly cutting off the hand that feeds the U.S… And that holds a large chunk of its debt!
This is the original piece. The edited one was published via CGTN: