Not just a trade war

October 15, 2019

What’s really behind the difficult trade negotiations between the U.S. and People’s China?

Is it — as the administration has claimed — that China wasn’t buying enough U.S. agricultural products? China has become a huge market for Midwestern farmers, who are heavily mortgaged and rely on Beijing buying large quantities of their soybeans and other crops.

“Soybean shipments did fall off a cliff in 2018, but in 2019 they staged a surprising recovery. If anything, soybean exports to China this year are running a little ahead of their 2017 rate.” (Mother Jones, Aug. 27) Nevertheless, the Trump administration, anxious over the coming elections, has tried to blame China for the farmers’ woes.

The Trumpites don’t admit that a big part of the farmers’ problem is due to climate change, with vast flooding over the past spring having turned Midwest fields into lakes. But according to Trumpspeak, climate change doesn’t exist.

China’s purchases of U.S. commodities have become so important to the U.S. economy that the stock markets here yo-yo up and down with each day’s news on trade talks. Trump knows this. When he tweets that the talks are on, the markets go up. When it doesn’t happen, the markets go back down.

China has no reason to sabotage its trading relationship with the United States. So what’s the problem?

Never mentioned by this government — but alluded to in some press accounts — is the fact that the Trumpites have been using the trade negotiations to push an agenda that would undermine China’s tremendous progress in economic and social development. It succeeded in liberating 850 million people from extreme poverty from 1981 to 2015, according to the World Bank.

China is not a capitalist country, although it allows capitalist ownership to exist alongside its state-owned, centrally planned economy. People’s China is the product of a great social upheaval that lasted decades and succeeded in bringing the workers and peasants to power in 1949. But this huge country suffered from extreme underdevelopment and poverty at that time. It is only in recent years that it has become an economic powerhouse.

What has really been happening is that the Trump administration, through its negotiations with China over trade, has been trying to obtain commitments from China to weaken state ownership over the parts of the economy that have been the underpinning of its progress.

Here’s how the most informed news outlet for the U.S. imperialist ruling class put it: “Trump launched the trade war against China with demands for sweeping structural reforms, but Beijing has indicated it is not willing to fundamentally change the way it controls China’s economy.” (New York Times, Oct. 10)

In other words, Trump’s trade negotiators were saying that China had to put up for grabs its socialized economic infrastructure. And the Chinese said no.

Washington then put pressure on Beijing by raising tariffs on Chinese imports. This has affected millions of people here, raising prices on a multitude of imported consumer goods that we have come to rely on.

Thus, the U.S. working class has been forced to pay for the Trump administration’s trade war and efforts to bring regime change to China.

As of this writing on Oct. 14, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is saying that a deal is in the making. But nothing has been signed. And the stock markets are wary, given the administration’s past record of false promises.

This could be just another “smoke and mirrors” feint by the brutal gang in Washington to avoid triggering a market crash. One seems long overdue as U.S. capitalism rots from within, seeking to lay the blame anywhere except on this wildly polarized system of multibillionaires versus ever more precarious workers.