Oh, the vapors, the vapors. No sooner did President Donald Trump announce the likelihood of new China tariffs to activate Sept. 1 than out popped the U. S. Chamber of Commerce’s head of international affairs Myron Brilliant to inform us, “Tariffs are not the answer; escalation is not the answer.”
Then what is the answer?
I hate to break it to Brilliant, but other than tariffs, the answer is nothing, niente, rien, nichts, nada … unless you want to go to war with China, which I don’t think anybody is ready for.
This lack of alternatives was made evident during the last round of Democratic primary debates when the candidates were asked the same question—Would you keep the tariffs on China?—and did more than their usual fumbling before remembering their required (i.e., if Trump is doing it, it must wrong) rote answer—no. They didn’t sound convincing. To the contrary. They had befuddled expressions on their faces, as if caught with their ideological pants down.
Beyond this phony political posturing or the pro forma lobbyist’s response of Brilliant is a far more difficult question. Just how does a democracy negotiate with a totalitarian state?
According to a Wall Street Journal article earlier this week—“Beijing Slow-Walks Trade Talks”—the Chinese have chosen to wait us out, having come to the conclusion that time is on their side and the longer they delay, the better deal they will get.
Best of all, Trump could lose in 2020, and once again the Chinese will only have to deal with the complaisant pussycats they’ve had sitting opposite them in negotiations for the last several decades. China would be left alone to steal our intellectual property, undercut our workers, and manipulate their currency to their own advantage as they always have.
Of course, this depends on the conventional wisdom that Chinese leader Xi Jinping and crew will still be there. That seems likely on the face, but despite being the oldest of civilizations, or nearly, China has been subject to multiple revolutions, many with extremely violent results.
In recent times, the Tiananmen affair and now events in Hong Kong are especially noteworthy. What seems like a communist monolith is not entirely a stable country. Far from it, actually. The following from the Aug. 2 South China Morning Post is ominously reminiscent of Prague and Budapest before they were ultimately invaded by the Soviet army:
“The People’s Liberation Army is a pillar for stability in Hong Kong and will always abide by the law, Beijing said on Friday amid concerns it might mobilise troops to help bring an end to weeks of unrest in the city.”
It wasn’t long after invasions that the Soviet Union disintegrated. And like the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic is apparently in financial trouble.
Nevertheless, until now, until Trump, China has had its way in negotiations with the United States, and with most of the rest of the world as well. Greed and cowardice have prevailed over courage and fair trade. Too many U.S. corporations—Google and Apple noteworthy among them—preferred to profit off the People’s Republic rather than confront it. Google came painfully close to actually creating a censored search engine for the communist regime.
If anything, our politicians have been worse. They followed the principle of going along to get along or, more accurately, going along to get theirs, as Joe Biden and John Kerry did with their sons and stepsons, as if China were a cash machine for progeny.
Like it or not, no one has done much about China except Trump. The answer to the question about how a democracy negotiates with a totalitarian state is to line up behind a leader of courage and to stick with him.
Negotiations almost always have ups and downs. Convince the totalitarians that you mean business. Throw aside partisan considerations “at the water’s edge.” That used to be a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy that has dwindled over the years and now barely exists in the age of Trump. Exacerbating the situation is the seemingly unending political campaign coupled with the inability to accept the legitimate authority of a president for even a minute.
Not being fools, the Chinese see this dissension, and we are paying the price.
Roger L. Simon, co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media, is an award-winning author and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter. His new novel, “The Goat,” will be available for pre-order Aug. 9, 2019.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.