A centerpiece in the increasingly toxic trade war is the fact that China pushed for forced technology transfers from American and other foreign companies seeking to do business in their country.
Did this practice begin recently? No. It’s been going on for years and years.
So why, then, did it take so long for the US government to bring it up and demand that it be stopped?
American and foreign investors agreed to Chinese demands because profits made it worthwhile. In the meantime, the Chinese learned from the technology, improved on it and now have risen to become our rivals.
If that has made us upset then it’s time we got over it.
The Chinese did what they did and we let them do it.
One American administration after another talked about stopping the forced technology transfers but ended up doing nothing.
Maybe we thought the Chinese could never get it together or that we would keep coming up with even better technologies and ideas and forever hold an edge over them.
The growth of China forces us to take a good look at ourselves.
Are we being outcompeted?
Have they copied us too well?
If so, then let’s pull up our sleeves and get to work, not just start a trade war.
We’re envious of China. Envious of their drive and their success and we’re not dealing with it appropriately. Instead, we’re choosing to bellyache and let our president be the bellyacher in chief.
The Chinese have succeeded, no question about it, but they are also paying a heavy price for it. They are a regimented society.
We are not and should take comfort in that.
But not too much.
And I say that because there are now forces here in America that would not mind sacrificing basic freedoms so as to increase growth and ape the Chinese.
Look at the steady rise of mega companies and their continuing effort to dominate markets, making it hard to let in new companies so they can vie for a piece of the pie.
Look at the rise of autocrats, who have got into office because we put them there.
What are we thinking?
Companies that moved into China and agreed to the technology transfers demanded by their hosts did so because they were advocates of growth at any price. Never mind what or whom they left behind. Cheaper labor won the day. And they’re still there. Feeding at the trough. Still doing business. Still making money. So what’s the flap about?
If American companies handed over trade secrets and are now outcompeted and not able to come up with better ideas, then get out. Face it. You lost. No bellyaching, please.
The Chinese are coming into their own and are in contention for the title of world’s leading superpower. They’re not there yet but they’re pushing. That’s a reality. We have no choice but to compete.
This trade war we’re in is unnecessary and a dangerous distraction. It is yet another bid for world attention by our self-aggrandizing president. But it is not just any other bid. It carries with it the high risk of driving us into a world recession.
Growth at any price won’t do. The voices that cry for more competition and for greater opportunity here at home must be heard. And so must the voices that say that we have to stop abusing others, and so too the voices that call for curbing carbon emissions. We need the balance because it brings us dignity.
Safeguarding our freedoms is as important as economic growth. In that sense we’re ahead of the Chinese. So let us value what we have. It’s not all about GDP as we have come to know it but just as importantly, about that other kind of GDP, the Growth Dignity Product. We’re still a long way from getting it right but we’re getting there.
We should not let a narrow minded president think that starting a trade war with China and the world is the way for the nation to pull itself up.
Try investing in Americans. Try raising expectations. Try demanding that we rise to the task.