If American corporations attempted to undermine President Reagan’s efforts to win the Cold War against the Soviet Union, there would have been a bipartisan outcry. Yet, in 2020, there is a notable silence from the political and economic establishment as American multinational businesses undercut President Donald Trump’s attempts to hold the Chinese Communist Party and its corporate proxies accountable, including technology giants WeChat and TikTok.
In August, some of America’s largest companies protested the Trump administration’s announcement that it would bar “any transaction that is related to WeChat,” a Chinese technology platform used by over a billion people that the administration rightly views as a national security threat. The corporate giants’ reasoning for pushing back? The ban might be “bad for business,” nevermind the threat to the American people.
The People’s Republic of China represents the greatest threat to the hegemonic status of the United States since the Cold War. In some ways, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is more formidable than the Soviets ever could have been, because the CCP believes that the United States’ fealty to profits surpasses any other consideration. Unlike the closed Communist Russian system, China’s participation in global markets with its cheap labor sources and massive demand pool has tantalized American policymakers and executives for the last 20 years.
The establishment’s willful blindness and dogmatic adherence to free trade with China has failed the American people. We both believe strongly in capitalism and free trade, but there are limits — trade must be free but fair and capitalism cannot be allowed to turn into mercantilism that in turn endangers our constitutional rights and national security.
It is estimated that since China’s entrance into the WTO in 2001, over 10 million US manufacturing jobs have been lost while China has accumulated over $1 trillion of US debt in order to keep the dollar strong so we continue to make purchases from them. They’ve unabashedly forced technology transfers against US companies by forcing them to sign joint venture agreements with local entities controlled by the CCP. They’ve manipulated their currency, violated maritime agreements in the South China Sea and committed countless human rights abuses. Most recently, of course, is both their elimination by annexation of the “1 country 2 systems” with Hong Kong and the ongoing genocidal treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
Despite these predictable results, we were promised by the neoliberal nexus of Clinton/Bush/Obama that trade with China would: 1) create a democracy and 2) provide low cost goods to US consumers, thereby improving living standards. On the contrary, as China has become more powerful (with our help) they have become more undemocratic and authoritarian. US companies that provide the exchange of ideas like Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Wikipedia are banned in China. Dissidents on topics like Tibet, Falun Gong or Tiananmen Square are jailed or disappear. And while it is true that the Sino-American relationship has kept consumer prices constant over the last 20 years and made billions of dollars for the aforementioned multinational companies, nothing else during this period has gone right for the average American family.
Consider that from 2001-2016 wages remained stagnant, education and healthcare costs increased over 150%, and income inequality reached its highest point since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, China went from the 6th to 2nd largest economy, lifted over 500 million if its citizens out of poverty, and became the world’s largest exporter.
Doesn’t seem like the cheap flat screen TVs were worth it.
As if this all isn’t enough, the coronavirus pandemic and Chinese attempted surveillance and control of US citizens must be the final straw. The origins of COVID-19 are murky at best since the Chinese have not allowed 3rd party investigators into Wuhan to make objective determinations. While the lack of transparency should raise suspicions, we know that at a minimum, China’s negligence is the proximate cause for the unprecedented death and destruction the world is facing. After knowing the severity of the disease, the CCP prevented any travel from Wuhan to other parts of China, but permitted international flights out of Wuhan all over the globe. To make matters worse, the US was forced to buy necessary medical supplies, drugs and equipment from the same country responsible for our plight.
A country that has no control over its supply chain is a country without true sovereignty.
Our current predicament demands that private enterprises work collaboratively with our government for our national security. The days of American-domiciled companies that benefit from our rule of law acting as self interested pseudo-Dutch East India Companies with no sense of national interest are over. American companies that fail to understand this reality do so at their own peril.
Indeed, this is not an abstract concept but one where our constitutional freedoms are under attack. When a Houston Rockets general manager had, in the Chinese view, the temerity to support the protestors in Hong Kong, one quickly saw first hand how the desire for profits made the NBA kowtow to the CCP. This was a quintessential example of how China controls American multinationals.
The CCP also seeks to indoctrinate Americans. Unbeknownst to many Americans, China has spent decades infiltrating American academia through the CCP-funded Confucius Institutes and by sending Communist Party-linked students and researchers into American universities. Moreover, major Hollywood studios make movies for the Chinese market, not the U.S. When was the last time you saw a blockbuster film critical of China?
We cannot forget that China is a police state. They use apps to monitor their citizens’ views and facial recognition software to track them. Chinese people are assigned “social credit scores” by the government which then determine what they can or cannot do. All of this is antithetical to U.S. constitutional values, but these methods are what China would like to use against Americans with Tik Tok and We Chat.
The Chinese National Intelligence Law allows Beijing to compel Chinese companies to turn over any information it requests (specifically data relating to foreign citizens). Therefore, with 100 million Americans signed up (many of them young children), Tik Tok, and by extension a foreign adversary, has the ability to know private information about our citizens and use it for blackmail or other nefarious purposes. For those who claim US tech companies do the same, we aren’t excusing such behavior and Section 230 reform and anti-trust steps will go a long way to correct such excesses. However, such a response also demonstrates a troubling globalist mentality that the US and China are the same.
We aren’t. And Americans who value liberty and freedom above a quick buck want it to stay that way.
Omeed Malik is the Founder & CEO of Farvahar Partners & Contributing Editor at The Daily Caller. Donald Trump, Jr. is Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization.