I think I have figured out why Donald Trump used to talk so much about China during his campaign. There may have been more to it than just a harsh xenophobic dog whistle. He may have just been doling out the red meat for the rallies a la Mexico and the wall they aren’t paying for. But in reality, the Trump administration’s policy on China is…well…complex.
You would get the idea that China is a nemesis that stands against all we stand for if you listen to Trump on a superficial level. But that’s not the crux of the biscuit.
Here’s the secret: Trump thinks China is awesome.
Fact is, China is a competitor and Trump’s always up for a contest. It’s not insignificant that one of the big things he wanted America to do is “win” again. And winning for Trump is measured in dollars. He laments that our economic growth rate is anemic (it’s fine). He thinks our growth should be double what it is right now. Trump is jealous as shit towards countries who are metastasizing like that. China is what Trump thinks of when he thinks about growth and success, because it may be the only country on a map which Trump recognizes that has absurd growth rates. They’re actually slowing down now to a much less frenetic pace, but China nearly had to have another revolution to force those high numbers.
They became rapacious. They were going to produce until it hurt.
There was no price too high that they would pay to industrialize. They built an infrastructure of heavily polluting coal plants and factories across China. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people died every year working in horrid conditions for a pittance. The air became unbreathable in places and the workers couldn’t afford anything that they produced for the rest of the world. This is how you get 7%-10% growth-you work your citizens to death(not unlike slaves), pay them nothing, sell the fruits of the labor for next to nothing and destroy the environment. And if you complain, you are arrested. There is no such thing as a free press-it’s all state media propaganda and the internet is heavily censored.
But today, China is learning to live with 6.9% growth. They have found that runaway growth is utterly unsustainable. Its technocrats are now more concerned with quality of life issues and they’ve gone looking to solar, wind and nuclear to reduce pollution levels. They have cool technology that scrubs air like a tree would. They’re coming out of the other side of their brutal experiment in growth, and getting ready to participate in the world market without things like currency manipulation, dumping, and old-fashioned protectionism. It still sounds like a shitty, unfun place to live, but they are progressing to the degree that they can.
So that’s what we know about China.
Wait for it.
I’m gonna make the jump and suggest that Donald Trump would love to turn us into China if he could.
He’s certainly contemptuous towards a free press. His views on so-called libel are dangerous. He could knock the legs out from under fledgling news gatherers by making court impossible to afford (Melania liked to break the will of tiny internet publications by threatening court over whether or not she was a ho). Ironically, Trump himself is an inveterate liar, making up all kinds of crazy stories ranging from the size of his inauguration crowd to claiming that millions of illegals voted in the 2016 election, which he won and still won’t let you forget a year later. Trump cannot really stop the media from reporting on him because of the Constitution-but he has learned to de-legitimize some of it and do an end run around it by using social media to calumniate against whoever opposes him or reports about him negatively. This snow job works on enough folks for it to pose a serious problem.
He wants to put the American environment to the torch. He’s willfully ignorant about global warming. He wants to hollow out the EPA, purging it of experts and making sure no one can discuss climate change within the agency. He’s extricating the United States from global pacts to reduce emissions. He wants us to go back to the dirtiest sources of energy possible (believing that there’s something called “clean” coal that comes out of the ground as such), drill offshore from sea to shining sea and give companies license to barf their toxins into our land, water and air by rolling back protections. All in the name of growth and business.
The Chinese are famous for being xenophobes. Trump may not be able to spell it, but that is what he is as well. His 2016 campaign was based in no small part upon getting peoples’ Irish up about immigrants and furriners in general. And that wall…amazing, great, beautiful, the best…
Finally, China has a history of currency manipulation. They don’t do it anymore, but in the past, they have allowed the value of the yuan to sink so that Chinese goods cost less in the rest of the world. Steve Mnuchin is totally down with keeping the value of a dollar weak, which may be good for our trade deficit but deleterious in other ways. We are also now dabbling in protectionist tariffs. These economic sleights don’t go unnoticed by the rest of the world, who will begin protecting their markets against our monkey business. And like I mentioned above, we won’t be able to afford Made In The USA because of poor worker protections and wage stagnation. It’s all very strange, because Republican orthodoxy states that markets should be free and now we are closing ourselves off with these aggressive moves, and ducking out of trade pacts. Oh, well. We’ve always been a country whose shadow motto is “do as I say, not as I do”.
Trump and his swamp monsters want to reduce Americans to a populace of serfs. After all, capitalism is just a mutated form of feudalism. It’s servitude with your choice of masters that feels like the exercise of free will. Our lives revolve around the caprice of the corporations and the financiers. However, I think the lords of the feudal past actually gave a shit about their subjects in a way that that Pfizer, Dupont, Cargill, the Kochs and the Mercers do not.