During a critical decade, in other words, we let China eat our lunch.
Let me be clear: China’s rise as an economic power is a good thing for the world, and a great thing for the Chinese people. China is not the source of all our economic woes. But China’s brazen currency manipulation and routine theft of American intellectual property has tilted the playing field unfairly against U.S. jobs. We’d have lost jobs as China rose in any event. But these losses have been far larger than they would have been had our leaders not stood idly by as Beijing spent trillions buying dollars to keep its currency (and thus exports) cheap.
A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the host of the new podcast “This...Is Interesting,” Miller writes a weekly column for The Post.
Why did our leaders fail to act? The apologists say the geopolitical situation is too delicate for such hardball. We want China to take its place in the community of nations. We don’t want China to implode as it rockets from third world to first. Beijing needs to create zillions of jobs each year lest it face social instability. Let’s cut them some slack, we’re basically told.
Well, yes, but. China’s challenges are real. But so are the challenges facing this nation’s eroding middle class (and the 23 million people seeking full-time work who can’t find it). It suits China’s interests to have American leaders thinking the place is a powder keg that could blow if pushed to reform too quickly.
If Brock is right, these rationalizations mean leaders in both American parties have been cowed into abandoning American interests.
When the other guy isn’t playing fair, after all, standing up to them isn’t “protectionism” — it’s economic self-defense. Doing nothing in the face of China’s behavior means playing the patsy.
Tim Geithner has occasionally jawboned China over currency values. Geithner also sent a strongly worded e-mail to the Brits on Libor rigging. We know how effective that was.
But the issue may finally be joined. On Monday, the latest step in China’s march to lock up global resource supplies came with state energy giant Cnooc’s record bid for Canadian producer Nexen (a deal U.S .regulators will have a role in reviewing). On Tuesday, Romney, who called China a currency manipulator early on, repeated the charge in his speech to the VFW. He plans on painting Obama as soft on Beijing.
Still, if Romney got rich at Bain in part by tapping China’s unfair advantages, how can he offer himself as the man who can bring China to heel?
Matt Miller, a co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center,” writes a weekly online column for The Post. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.