Opinion / Chen Weihua

Navarro another blow to US-China ties

By Chen Weihua (China Daily) Updated: 2016-12-24 06:57

US president-elect Donald Trump is known for his anti-China rhetoric on the campaign trail, such as threatening to impose up to 45 percent tariffs on Chinese products and calling China a currency manipulator.

Yet when Trump named China-friendly Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to be the United States ambassador to China, and his senior advisor James Woolsey said Trump may consider joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative (the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road), it momentarily seemed the president-elect may have started to see reason.

Wednesday, however, dampened that hope, as Trump nominated Peter Navarro to head the new White House National Trade Council. Trump's transition team described Navarro as a "visionary economist ... (who) will develop trade policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand our growth, and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores".

It is still unclear what will be Navarro's relationship with the still-to-be-announced US trade representative, and commerce secretary-nominee Wilbur Ross, a sensible businessman I chatted with and interviewed in New York years ago. But one thing is certain: Navarro is a known China hawk.

Back in August 2012, I had criticized a documentary based on the 2011 book Death By China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action by Navarro and Greg Autry, calling it "hate speech against China". I described his key points: China is bad in every respect. China is stealing American jobs, killing its babies with unsafe toys and its army is preparing to kill Americans. In a country known for making great movies, I wrote at the time, a trash production called Death By China which reminded one of Nazi propaganda should not make it to even the screen.

The China bashing by the conservative professor at University of California-Irvine, also includes his other books, such as The Coming China Wars (2008) and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World (2015).

People who read the reviews on amazon.com will find that The Coming China Wars is "China bashing at its worst" and "meant to terrify you" and "simplistic and exaggerating". The Crouching Tiger also portrays China as a military threat to the US in a biased and sensational way.

In other words, Navarro is hardly a visionary. He is deaf and blind to the enormous win-win cooperation and potential of China-US relations, whether in trade and investment or in tackling regional and global challenges.

Trade is a form of cooperation and the $550 billion annual bilateral trade has brought huge benefits to the peoples of both countries. What Navarro and Trump have in common is to demonize trade, especially the US trade deficit with China.

The feeling that US trade deficit with China is in China's favor is both politicized and misleading. For example, each iPhone that Apple sells in the US adds some $200 to the US-China trade deficit. This means iPhones alone add $6-8 billion to the bilateral trade deficit each year. And what does China make from iPhones? A ridiculously small amount of about $10 from each, say many economists.

If the US lifts its outdated restrictions on high-tech exports to China, its trade deficit will shrink dramatically or could even be reversed.

In an article written for Project Syndicate last week, Cornell University professor Eswar Prasad, an economist and currency expert, criticized Trump for accusing China of currency manipulation, saying there were no facts to prove the charge and by "getting tough" on China, Trump would hurt both economies.

Many scholars have warned about the devastating effects on the US, China and the rest of the world a trade war will have if Trump were to truly put his tough talk into action. Navarro's appointment only adds to such concern.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA. chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

(China Daily 12/24/2016 page5)

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