“We Need to Decide”

So says President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.

Speaking in Spain while enroute to the G-20 conference in Argentina, Xi said

I think we are at a crossroads. In economic terms we need to decide if we are going to follow the economic globalization and free market or if we are going to choose unilateralism and protectionism.

“Crossroads” may be a bit much.  Certainly, we’re at cross purposes on international trade matters, but I think “crossroads” overstates the case.  The current budding crisis will fade before it breaks, or we’ll recover after it breaks.  In either case, the situation is not at all irrecoverable.  Irrecoverability was a serious risk in WWII.  Irrecoverability was a serious risk during the global depression of the 1930s due to all the government interventions—interferences—into their domestic economies, which badly slowed those recoveries.  We’re not near that today.

The larger question, though, is the falseness of Xi’s remark about globalization vs unilateralism, free market vs protectionism.

We do need to follow free market tenets along with free trade principles and the degree of globalization that will ensue from those freedoms.  It would be good if the PRC followed those tenets and principles, too.  Instead, Xi’s government engages in theft of proprietary material, theft of intellectual property, extortion of those things as a price of doing business inside the PRC.  It requires government backdoors into the software used by companies doing business inside the PRC.

Xi’s government sets trade barriers including requirements to take on a PRC company as equal or majority partner as a condition of doing business inside the PRC (Xi talks of waiving that requirement in a couple of cases; neither of those waivers actually have occurred), heavily subsidizes domestic businesses, blocks economically useful mergers between international companies headquartered in other nations—other continents—for noneconomic reasons, routinely intervenes in its domestic stock “markets,” manipulating its currency value, and on and on.

Xi’s government tried to abuse its monopoly power in rare earth elements by limiting its exports to other nations below economic, free market demand levels.  Its occupation of the South China Sea and the islands—owned by other nations—is for the purpose of controlling the resources on/below the sea bed and the food supplies in the waters.

Xi’s government exports substandard—even dangerous—products like poisoned pet food, plywood sheets laced with formaldehyde, baby formula spiked with melamine powder.  The list goes on.

It would be good if the PRC did join the consensus for free and open trade.  To do that, though, the PRC would have to move away from its current business model, a model of theft and coercion rather than a model of honest markets and freely done international trade.

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