Battle for the Nation (3)
There is no question that the tariffs Trump is imposing on China and the threat to impose them on Mexico are a burden to the American taxpayer. Both sides are hurt by them but Trump is betting that they will hurt the other side more than us. Tariffs have not yet derailed our economic expansion but they may well do so.
Are there problems with our trade with China? Of course. Do they need addressing? No doubt. But what happened to gradualism? Wouldn’t that approach give our industries and every other nation’s enough time to make the necessary adjustments?
Yes, it would.
The reason Trump is rushing headlong with tariffs is clear. He is convinced that they are his ticket to reelection. He appears to think that pushing tariffs will project him as the great American gladiator, the sublime avenger of all injuries inflicted upon us.
But we will not beat China on tariffs. They will fight back and even endure much pain rather than bow to Trump’s demands. In the 80s we could impose tariffs on Japan and stem their rise because we had defeated them in WWII. We did not defeat China. She was not even a nation.
China has become a formidable opponent. Their brand of state sponsored development, their drive and ambition, has challenged our position in the world.
Their commitment to technological superiority, their advances in 5G and artificial intelligence, all make it evident that their push for world dominance is here to stay.
Should we be frightened? It depends on how capable we perceive ourselves to be.
China’s rise and defiance should be seen as a warning that we have to reorganize our economy and the way we connect to ourselves and to the world.
To do that we need to think clearly as to what our priorities are.
Take immigration: immigrants have contributed enormously to who we are now and what we have. A Russian immigrant is Google’s cofounder. Apple’s Steven Jobs’ father came from Syria. Intel’s Andy Grove, a leading figure in the company’s growth, came from Hungary.
Present day Silicon Valley is filled with first or second generation Indian entrepreneurs.
I live in California. There are several buildings going up near where I live. The major component to the labor force pushing up those structures are Latinos.
When I go for medical care the likelihood is high that the nurse or doctor assisting me will be a first or second generation immigrant. And so too when I go to the pharmacy to pick up my meds.
Same at the bank or when I go for coffee or to get something to eat.
We are immigrants. That’s who we are. We have needed the numbers and immigrants have provided them.
China’s story is different. They have the numbers. But they started to thrive quickly only when they opened to the world. It was that influx of ideas and technologies that, coupled with their drive and ingenuity, lifted them to their present status.
In China’s case, however, selective openness. They have not been willing to import democratic ideals and so their population remains severely bereft of individual liberties.
The West bet that trade with China would inevitably stir a strong desire from within to transform their communist ideology. It hasn’t happened but it does not mean that it will not.
We got wrong the time table for political change but the central concept remains. Sooner or later China will open up politically.
Trump’s intemperate push for tariffs betrays a sense of panic.
China announces their desire for being the worldwide leader in technology and Trump frets that we will be at their mercy.
He bangs his tariff drum – the louder the better – thinking that it will deter China.
It will not.
The Chinese must love that our president is showing so little confidence in all the pain and effort that it has taken to build America. But Trump has little sense of history.
Our concept of liberty is the distillation of hundreds of years of thought and discussion, struggles and wars.
China has not done that work. They went from a near feudal economy to world prominence in a very short time. Much like South Korea did, except that we could exert political influence there because we fought for their freedom.
Why then are we panicking with China’s rise?
There is no need to do so. In fact, it is counterproductive.
To panic is to doubt that our model of governance is effective.
It is effective not only because of our economic and military strength but because it keeps attracting millions of people from all over the world. And yet, it needs to be fairer.
As we embrace greater fairness we will help release the fullness of our citizens’ productive capacities.
Rather than panic with China’s rise, we should welcome it, for it challenges us to remake our society.
Let us not forget that our society is not in its final form. Far from it. It is designed to be in a continuous state of flux because the complexity of life demands it.
China’s spectacular growth has contributed to the rise of nationalism both here and abroad. But reacting in such way is going in the wrong direction. We must not lose faith in man’s thirst for freedom and how it unleashes their creative forces.
China lags way behind the West in allowing the fundamental freedom that man has long aspired to. In time, and with visionary leadership, they will come around.
Immigration needs reform in that the nation must have control of its borders. Let’s tackle that. Let’s discuss it. Let’s do a referendum on the issue.
But let us not allow a leader without a sense of history, to throw us into a state of panic that leads us to question the fundamental values that we have struggled so hard to maintain.
Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net