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World must unite to crush US 'trade terrorism'

By SHENG YUHONG | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-23 09:47

Li Min/China Daily

If Beijing backs down as the first tough challenger to Washington's protectionist moves, the other economies may follow suit.

The US administration threatened on Monday to slap a 10 percent additional tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, after announcing a hefty 25 percent tariff last week on $50 billion of made-in-China goods, escalating a trade dispute between the world's two largest economies that has put global markets and businesses on edge.

The White House issued the threat after China said it will retaliate against the 25 percent US tariffs on its exports and immediately outlined its own tariffs on $50 billion worth of US goods.

"Further action must be taken to encourage China to change its unfair practices, open its market to United States goods, and accept a more balanced trade relationship with the United States," US President Donald Trump said in a statement.

In response to the US "using maximum pressure and blackmail", which China said goes against the consensus reached by the two countries on multiple occasions and has utterly disappointed the international community, the Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday that China will "fight back firmly" with comprehensive "qualitative" and "quantitative" measures if the US publishes an additional list of tariffs on more Chinese goods.

The tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, along with the tariffs previously threatened by the Trump administration, would put China's total export volume under the threat of extra tariffs at as high as $450 billion. Data from the General Administration of Customs show China's export of goods to the US amounted to $429.8 billion in 2017. It means that if the US does impose the threatened tariffs on Chinese exports, its market would be completely "closed" to all Chinese goods.

In the present era of globalization, any leaders of a big country who know market rules and the general world situation would unlikely make an absurd decision to shut the door to the world's second-largest economy, let alone Trump, a businessman-turned-politician who deeply understands the "art" of deals and compromises.

So, behind the seemingly irrational and nearly insane statement is actually the White House's anger toward China's vow of tough countermeasures, its panic over a plummeting stock market in reaction to the looming China-US trade war and its anxiety in the run-up to US midterm election. As a result, the Trump administration has no choice but to play the numbers game in an ever-escalating manner to exert continuous pressure on China and present its strong profile to win the midterm election.

However, this kind of US practice, which is based on selfishness and undermines the interests of the people of the US as well as those in the rest of the world, has further driven home the message to the international community that what the US pursues is not just the realization of a trade balance, but its absolute dominance in the political, economic, military and technological domains by wielding the "stick of tariff", even at the risk of worldwide condemnations. Such kind of hegemonic mentality characterized by "I would offend others rather than others offend me" and the stubborn practice of compromising trade liberalism, economic globalization, the multilateral trade system and the global industrial chain are not inferior to nude "trade terrorism".

Any of such kind of attempts and practices, however, will not solve the problems now facing the US, nor will it save a "declining America". As Francis Fukuyama said in The End of History and the Last Man, the US' political system is increasingly malfunctioning, and its interest groups and right of say are in excess, but the interests and wills of the majority of its people have not been reflected and safeguarded. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, too, pointed out that the US' slowed economic growth in recent years suggests something is wrong with the US and this will put the country in retrogression.

Many analysts believe that although the US economy has performed better in the short term, its long-term slowdown trend has not changed. And if US politicians cannot resolve its structural problems, the hidden risks that ignited the 2008 subprime crisis such as soaring asset prices and a widening income gap could be detonated once again at any time.

"Trade terrorism" cannot save the US. Instead, it will do serious harm to economic globalization, the multilateral trading system and the global industrial chain. Therefore, China has made it clear from the very beginning that it will "resolutely safeguard national and people's interests, and resolutely safeguard economic globalization and the multilateral trading system".

In the face of a temperamental Trump administration, China will hold a consistent attitude toward its changeable policies. China's countermeasures are a comprehensive application of tactics based on both "qualitative" and "quantitative" measures and any of them should make the initiator of "trade terrorism" feel both pain and fear.

In this elaborately-orchestrated attempt to launch a trade war by the US, China is the first tough rival, and if China backs down, any of the US' other trade partners may follow suit. Fortunately, more and more countries have perceived the nature and intention of the US-initiated "trade terrorism", and they include even Japan, a close US ally in Asia. In fact, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe believes Trump's trade policy is "difficult to understand and unacceptable" and has urged that the US' trade measures should comply with World Trade Organization rules.

Facing almost insane actions from the Trump administration, the international community should join hands as soon as possible to resist the US in an unflinching manner so that they can win the "war on terror" in the field of trade.

The author is an international issues observer with China Radio International.

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