Better late than never, I guess. At the New York Times Farhad Manjoo laments:
The People’s Republic of China is the largest, most powerful and arguably most brutal totalitarian state in the world. It denies basic human rights to all of its nearly 1.4 billion citizens. There is no freedom of speech, thought, assembly, religion, movement or any semblance of political liberty in China. Under Xi Jinping, “president for life,” the Communist Party of China has built the most technologically sophisticated repression machine the world has ever seen. In Xinjiang, in Western China, the government is using technology to mount a cultural genocide against the Muslim Uighur minority that is even more total than the one it carried out in Tibet. Human rights experts say that more than a million people are being held in detention camps in Xinjiang, two million more are in forced “re-education,” and everyone else is invasively surveilled via ubiquitous cameras, artificial intelligence and other high-tech means.
None of this is a secret. Under Xi, China has grown markedly more Orwellian; not only is it stamping its heel more firmly on its own citizens, but it is also exporting its digital shackles to authoritarians the world over. Yet unlike the way we once talked about pariah nations — say East Germany or North Korea or apartheid South Africa — American and European lawmakers, Western media and the world’s largest corporations rarely treat China as what it plainly is: a growing and existential threat to human freedom across the world.
Why do we give China a pass? In a word: capitalism. Because for 40 years, the West’s relationship with China has been governed by a strategic error the dimensions of which are only now coming into horrific view.
He’s missing one word in that: crony. Free markets have nothing whatever to do with the disaster that China has been to the American economy. We do not now have free trade with China and have never had free trade with China. We have had managed trade and that has nothing to do with free markets and everything to do with crony capitalism.
There is also nothing in his piece that wasn’t apparent 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Only wishful thinking has allowed the policy with China that we have followed for the last 40 years. It’s time for a little hard-nosed reality.
The reality is that manufacturing should and may return to the United States but the manufacturing jobs “lost” over the last 40 years are gone for good. If we’re going to continue to manage trade, it should be managed in a way that benefits most Americans rather than just a relative few.