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William Jones: China grows weary of the U.S. moving the goal posts on trade

2019-06-12

By William Jones    Source: CGTN    Published: 2019-6-7


The publication by China's Ministry of Commerce of the policy white paper “China's Position on the China-U.S. Economic and Trade Consultations” last week, coupled with China's Ministry of Commerce's research report on U.S. gains from bilateral trade cooperation on Thursday, are really China drawing a line in the sand, noting that their patience was running out with the continual shifts in U.S. policy in resolving the contentious trade negotiations. How many times have we seen the two sides approaching some type of agreement when suddenly President Donald Trump, or one of his advisers, makes some remarks about issues that remain unresolved and throws everything into turmoil?


But rather than an outright rejection of continuing negotiations, the paper rather tries to set some ground-rules for further talks, ground rules which have not always been followed or even recognized, by the U.S. side, but which are basic to any successful negotiations between nations. These include mutual respect and mutual benefit, good faith negotiations, and respect for every nation's right to develop. In certain respects, all three have been ignored, even violated, by the U.S.


Most serious, of course, has been the blatant attempt by the United States to interfere in the tremendous progress China has been making in the realm of high technology. The attacks on Huawei, in particular, while allegedly based on issues of “national security” are in reality an attempt to slow down China's development in the key area of telecommunications.


Most specifically, the U.S. is intent on not allowing Huawei to become a major provider of communications services to allied countries with the United States. They are also interested in stopping Huawei's advances in the other countries of the world, but will probably have less influence in strong-arming them, particularly the developing countries, to follow suit. In fact, Huawei is so integrated into so many countries' communications systems at this point that it is nigh impossible for them to shift gears without damaging their own development.


In fact, much of rural America is already dependent on Huawei technology and now some clever fellows in the U.S. Senate are calling on taxpayers to pay for ripping the Huawei equipment out of these systems. And with what will they be replaced? And at what cost? And who will pay?  Most likely this measure, if passed will leave the rural communities high and dry. And much of this equipment is not only used for calling their neighbors but is an integral part of the production process in agriculture, with the ability to quickly call up weather broadcasts and to coordinate seedings, etc.


But even among U.S. “allies”, including the exclusive “Five Eyes”, there is no unity on these measures. Great Britain, for instance, has agreed to work with Huawei on certain parts of its communications network, unless President Trump on his recent trip succeeds in forcing them to back down from their position.


Given the progress Huawei and China have made in the field, it highly unlikely that the U.S. vendetta will have a long-term effect on China's continued success in the area of high-technology. It will slow things down, perhaps, and China will have to begin producing equipment that they have previously purchased in the West, but with the amount of native talent and national commitment they have to this endeavor, it would be foolish to think that such repressive measures can totally stop their continued development.


What it will do, however, is to create the sense in China that the United States is not a well intentioned “competitor”, but rather a country aiming at sucking the life-blood out of China's continued progress. And such a development would tend to divide the world into two camps.


But in such a division it is indeed likely that China will have a decisive advantage. Most of the world has benefited from China's Belt and Road Initiative, while the post-war Western-dominated economic system has a more checkered history, particularly in the developing sector, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Latin America. While the United States was once viewed as the “beacon of hope” for the world, it is now viewed more as a post-colonial “imperial” master, setting the “rules” in a way which benefit only the ruler.


A better option for the U.S. and for President Trump would be to take up the proposal laid out by China in the “White Paper” and re-enter negotiations with a view to achieving some form of agreement that is truly mutually beneficial. China is prepared to purchase more from the U.S. This would help increase U.S. production.


The U.S. should also rethink loosening the restrictions on some of our own high-tech production in order to increase sales to China. We should also listen to the voices recently raised to abolish the Wolf Amendment which prevents U.S.-China cooperation in human space flight. We are after all both space powers.


Would such a shift lead to even greater prowess by a country that has been defined as a competitor or even “rival”? No doubt.


But if our own country would again dedicate itself and much of our “national treasure” to achieving the highest standards in science and technology rather than starting innumerable foreign wars in which our real national blood and treasure has so exorbitantly been expended on the battlefield over the last two decades, we should have nothing to fear from any nation.


We may, in fact, in the process transform a “rival” into a “friend” with whom we can cooperate in conquering those new worlds of exploration and discovery which are waiting just beyond the horizon.


William Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Key Words: China   US   trade   William Jones  

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