Can US auto industry take the lead by digging trench for China?: Global Times editorial
Published: Mar 02, 2024 12:16 AM
Photo: NEV

Photo: NEV

In his statement on national security risks to the US auto industry on Thursday, US President Joe Biden declared that vehicles from China should not be allowed to operate in the US without safeguards. As he said this, Chinese-made cars are nowhere to be seen on the streets of the US, while American brand cars are ubiquitous on Chinese roads. 

Does this forward-looking "sense of crisis" truly come from the scenario of Chinese cars presenting a "national security risk" to the US? If Washington had a Pinocchio nose, people would see it grow a lot longer. 

The US government seems to be posturing to investigate the "national security risks" posed by Chinese-made "connected cars," but what to do if it cannot find anything to investigate in the US? American public opinion immediately believed that the investigation could lead to the US restricting the use of Chinese-made components in cars, which is a reflexive subconscious response. 

American car manufacturers are genuinely concerned about this. They collectively called on the US Department of Commerce to "work closely with the auto industry to determine the scope of any action," and urged the Department to target transactions that pose "undue risk to US economic and national security" but not to "capture low-risk transactions that could have unintended near-term impacts on advanced vehicle safety technologies." 

The words may be slightly convoluted, but are not difficult to understand. Given Washington's recent style of actions, it is possible that US-made cars could be dismantled, a magnifying glass is used to find out which parts are China-made, and then removed, which is absurd. If this were to occur, American car manufacturers would be the first to suffer from the ensuing turmoil, so they demanded the "scope of actions" be discussed with them. 

"National security risk" is a pretext, and the real purpose of Washington's actions this time is not to harass American car manufacturers. The White House statement began with a boast about American cars, claiming that "American automakers and auto workers are the best in the world. The iconic Big Three and American auto workers are leading the world in quality and innovation. A dynamic auto industry is vital to the US economy." The White House was looking to boost morale, but also exposed an unspoken truth.

Actually, we would prefer that the White House's perception of the American automobile industry is true. If it is indeed so good, is it necessary to treat Chinese EVs, which have not yet entered the American market, as a major threat? The US has already set up high tariff barriers against Chinese EVs, but what have been the results? 

Many US media outlets pointed out that Washington has discovered that tariffs alone may not permanently exclude Chinese brand electric vehicles from the US market. In other words, US tariff barriers can no longer stop the tide of Chinese car companies going overseas, and Washington can only build higher barriers.

Some analysts pointed out that as a nation on wheels, the US sees the automobile industry not only an economic issue, but also a political one. Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where there are many blue-collar workers, are considered swing states and are the focus of contention between the two US political parties during this election year. Just at this time, the White House decided to launch an investigation into China's electric vehicles. Because of this, "China's electric vehicles are going to hit Detroit like a wrecking ball" has become topics of hype.

Of course, there are also sane people in the US who understand the matter. For example, on February 27, The New York Times published an article, reminding the US government that it must act carefully and not isolate the US auto market from the rest of the world and turn the US into a country with a backward automobile industry filled with big, expensive, fuel-guzzling cars. In fact, the strength of China's electric vehicles was achieved through full and fair competition.

Tesla, an American EV company, was introduced to China early on and established a factory in Shanghai. The three major American automakers have been operating in the Chinese market for many years, and China has never considered them a "threat." The vehicles that run on Chinese roads come from economies all over the world, and are more diverse in range than in any other region, including the US, Japan, Europe and South Korea. Even in an environment where strong competitors abound, China's EV industry has thrived.

The next day after The New York Times article was published, the White House issued a statement claiming to investigate the "national security risks" posed by Chinese "connected vehicles." What a bitter irony - building a wall so high and still feeling insecure, then digging another trench.