Debate on China-US trade clash not always logical

By Wen Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/8 22:58:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT


The escalating trade war between the US and China has stirred up debate in both countries. With the livelihoods of many ordinary people in both countries at stake, rhetoric in the trade feud needs to be tuned down.

In the US, people are taking opposite positions, shouting at each other. Populists support the trade battle initiated by the US earlier this year, while free trade backers oppose it, believing the conflict will lead to lower wages, lost jobs, higher prices and lower living standards overall. In the worst-case scenario, the US economy could be thrown back into a serious recession.

In China, opinions about the trade war are also polarized. Most people support the central government in counter-attacking the US' coercive high tariffs and upholding multilateralism and global economic cooperation. But some Chinese citizens are criticizing the policymakers for failing to keep a lower profile with China's newly gained economic strength, and punching the US in the nose, which they believe may have annoyed the US.

We are totally baffled by the logic of these arguments. It is the US that fired the first shots by imposing higher tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, so why do a few Chinese people look at China as a scapegoat? China did not cower but retaliated. So did Canada, Mexico, the EU and Russia, and they have all fired back.

Those "moaners" were outright wrong in suggesting China be "humbler" and subservient to the US, for it was Washington that trampled on WTO rules first and launched a trade war. If China caves in, the US will demand more, and Washington's penalties will surely fall on more countries whose economies are much smaller than China's and can't resist.

There were even arguments that China's opening-up policy was initially designed to open up to the US, but not other countries. This is utter nonsense. Actually, the opening-up drive, kicked off by late leader Deng Xiaoping, was aimed at closer economic and trade collaboration with all countries, not exclusively the US.

Now, with China's 2018 GDP widely estimated to hit $13 trillion, the world's second-largest economy is poised to integrate with countries and regions that have participated in the massive Belt and Road initiative. As the world's most ancient civilization, China feels duty-bound to help the less-developed countries, particularly those in Africa, Asia and East Europe. Once these economies emerge and blossom, they naturally will trade more with China.

That said, China still needs to invest heavily in education and scientific basics and to help incubate more next-generation technology innovations and breakthroughs.

At the same time, it must continue to invest in the improvement of infrastructure - more high-speed railways, 5G telecom hubs, advanced nuclear-power stations, better schools, hospitals and urban clusters. Investment and the expanding consumption power of the rising middle class will prove to be the driving force of China's sizzling growth in the coming years.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.


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