Did Biden officials know what they were doing when they announced a wide expansion of export controls to China? China is the second largest economy in the world, closely tied to the economy of the United States and other nations. This is primarily because US multinationals export huge chunks of our manufacturing economy to China for its cheap labor.
Both American political parties have chosen a militant path with no exit strategy – a path that must please Lockheed Martin and the rest of the military-industrial complex.
What do the White House and the Commerce Department think? China is not Venezuela or Russia, a weak and dependent economy with a lower GDP than Italy. Do these brazen Bidenites realize the consequences of a long list of technologies and know-how banned from China?
As the dominant imperial world power, the United States struggles to understand how to deal with an aggressive rising power like China that is building spheres of influence around the world through exports, loans, development and technical assistance contracts. It’s normal that we have military bases in more than 100 countries whose leaders know the United States as the first overthrower of elected governments with policies that displease Washington and Wall Street.
As a result, the Bidenites are unleashing export controls, put in place through administrative secrecy, which will surely invite black markets, high-tech smuggling and retaliation to make these controls a nightmare to enforce.
Getting China to play its own cards is not smart. China, thanks to the greed of pampered and subsidized American pharmaceutical companies, produces a large part of our pharmaceuticals. These companies have left America, for example, without domestic production of antibiotics – certainly a national security priority!
China has “rare earth” minerals and produces crucial technology for our own defense and high-tech industries. His government authorizes the construction of American factories in China on the condition of a flow of the latest “technology transfers”. Ask General Motors.
How are export controls – based on asserted national security grounds – going to work, if not to accelerate a new arms race? “We need to maintain technological superiority,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, adding that export controls “are central to how we best protect our democracies.” Tell that to the mass victims of the next round of viruses from China due to our tiny public health programs and early detection systems, while we spend more than 2.5 times more than China on our military budget having had a huge head start in past years.
The New York Times reports that U.S. officials also don’t like China’s tight surveillance of its people. It’s as if surveillance capitalism (See, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Professor Shoshana Zuboff) and the NSA’s 4th Amendment violations are rubbish.
China is already at the forefront of artificial intelligence, biotechnology and quantum computing. Declaring a cold war against China’s access to technology, as one Commerce Department official put it, “that advances the country’s scientific progress,” including against foreign companies that use certain U.S. products, is ridiculous. Are they not aware of the traditional open exchanges between scientists around the world, not to mention China’s own allies or collaborators in this regard?
What is also well known, but not most prominent in people’s minds, is that China, Russia and the United States have embedded malware into their respective cyberworlds which, if triggered, could cause a disaster. Concern over the tens of billions of Chinese dollars invested in US Treasuries should also be a problem for Mr Biden.
Another underweight calculation is the quiet opposition to export controls by US companies who salivate over current and future profits with Chinese trade – Apple CEO Tim Cook (who, by the way, earns 833 dollars a minute over a 40-hour week) won a special waiver treatment from Trump, sued by Biden, for importing tens of billions of dollars a year worth of iPhones and computers from its Chinese contractors without tariffs.
This is another way of noting that export controls invite both gross corruption and special lobbying for waivers. They were tried by the United States against the former USSR, which developed elaborate workarounds.
So here we go again. Of course, some deadly products must be embargoed by all countries protecting their population. The United States is expanding its so-called “entity list” cutting off hundreds of foreign companies and groups from certain American technologies unless American suppliers obtain licenses to sell goods to them. Don’t these government officials know that blacklisted companies can mutate through other licensed companies in tax havens or dictatorships abroad?
American belligerence will clash with more Chinese belligerence and vice versa as the perils and risks increase.
William Hartung (see, Center for International Policy) points out that a much better future would come from intense cooperation between the United States and China on climate crises, pandemic prevention, ocean preservation and international agreements on weapons, including cybersecurity. Make peace and pursue your mutual interests as if our children and grandchildren mattered.
Where is our Department of Peace, once advanced by Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), when we need it?
Relations between great nations are shaped by momentum in one direction or another. Both American political parties have chosen a militant path with no exit strategy – a path that must please Lockheed Martin and the rest of the military-industrial complex.
The forces of peace and muscular cooperation must show that there is an alternative way to guarantee the common interests of the two nations. That’s called robust diplomacy in this age of recurring pandemics, expanding ransomware, bloated military budgets and interconnected economies.