WHACK! My football coaches hand smacking the side of my helmet, imploring, no, demanding that I get back in the game and find a way to win.
America needs a good whack upside the head to develop a broader strategy to combat China’s rise rather than simply whining about it.
Be clear, China presents the United States with unprecedented challenges on a number of fronts. It does not appear America has a coherent China policy today.
Treating China as an economic boogieman is good to stoke cheers and fears from American workers beaten down by offshoring of American manufacturing. Impacted workers desperately want to believe the President’s cheap rhetoric that he is going to bring these jobs back to hollowed our communities. It won’t. Manufacturing is leaving China for other low cost Asian nations.
Further, automation, technology/artificial intelligence (AI) is the great crook stealing these low skilled manufacturing jobs as any tour of a manufacturing site will demonstrate.
This memory of getting a good slap upside my head comes rushing back to me as I watch the Trump Tariff Trade War play out. Be clear, I support the broad principles our nation is raising to combat the “unfair trade practices” China has instituted over the decades since “opening to the world.”
Yet, simply carping about how China is “cheating” or as President Donald Trump, the U.S. ‘Disruplter-in-Chief” bellows, ‘raping’ the United States with its trade policies is not going to win the game or allow the USA to remain number 1 as the 21st unfolds.
Addressing long standing trade issues is appropriate and long overdue. The question is not “if” it should be addressed— it is the strategy and tactics of “how”, that truly matter.
Going it alone and alienating our allies that could and should have joined us and provided greater leverage against China was a huge mistake by the Trump Administration. To think we are going to thump our chest and China will jump- forgets the history of China and the West. It forgets the century of humiliation from 1849-1949. It forgets our own history of theft of intellectual property. Papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass are four great inventions by ancient Chinese people that have had a huge impact on the entire world. Last I looked, there was no payment for this intellectual property. It forgets the evil of addicting of the Chinese people to opium to address a trade deficit in the past and the May 4th movement in 1919 which was a beginning of China pushing back against the Western humiliation.
The West’s history with China is far from stellar. This history is fresh in Chinese leaders’ minds.
History matters to China. It should matter to America, too.
Trump’s Tariff Trade War is pure defense and does not address what America should be doing in investing in our nation and our people such as in education, infrastructure, technology/AI and things that will make our people and nations stronger.
As a nation we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can and must do more than blaming China making them the boogieman if we want to remain strong as the 21st unfolds.
Where Is America’s Offensive Strategy?
Simply playing defense in hope of thwarting China’s rise is not enough. China is investing at home and abroad in initiatives that only make them stronger: infrastructure, education, technology, AI and ‘big data’, buying friends around the globe. At the same time, America is disinvesting in these same things. Investing in education, workforce preparedness, artificial intelligence and infrastructure is the offense we need.
We need massive new investments in education and workforce preparation from the cradle to the grave if we want to remain relevant as a state and nation. As the technology revolution washes over the globe, it is clear the individuals, communities, regions, states and nations that most effectively seize the opportunities it produces will dominate the 21st century.
The issue begs for America to create a national strategy in order to counter the threat of China’s rise.
Be clear the Trump Tariff Trade War is being paid for by America’s farmers, manufacturers and consumers.
Imagine if we used these resources to invest in the American people.
The rise of China ensures the the US-China relations will continue to be more challenging and contentious. We need more than a defense “against” China. We need an American offensive investment plan to place us in a position of strength.
China’s rise should motivate national and state leaders to prepare the American people for our future and not our past.
America needs a whack upside the head to begin to invest in our people if we want to assure China’s rise does not come at the American people’s demise.
Tom Watkins has an eclectic career in both the public and private sectors. He served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and director of the department of mental health. He has held leadership positions in higher education, business and behavioral health. Watkins has a interest and passion in all things China and has written hundreds of article on the value of this most important bilateral relationship in the world today.