A recent commentary on Fox Business Network – which is part of the No. 1 news channel in America and the most influential cheerleader of White House policies –unsurprisingly embraced the U.S. government's "economic war" with China.
But the harshly-worded piece, which aired during prime-time on May 14, also took matters one step further: host Trish Regan branded the U.S. trade imbalance with China as a "weapon" – which the U.S. must use against China.
Beyond claiming that China continues to prosper "at our expense," Regan blamed the Chinese three times for "stealing" billions from the Americans. According to her, "We don't really have a choice" but to wage this "war."
Words have consequences. Her economic warmongering reaches millions of Americans in their homes – and possibly many others around the world. And given the close, almost symbiotic relationship that the Fox has with the current U.S. administration, it's fair to say she also speaks for Trump's America.
She portrays America as the real victim here, implying that previous U.S. administrations were somehow suckered by the scheming Chinese. She's so sure of U.S. victimhood, so indignant, that her eyes practically spitfire. If you were an American who didn't know any better, you, too, might clench your fists and pound the wall.
Yet, in carefully analyzing her words, it's all emotion and accusation – supported with little substance.
One figure upon which she bases her argument is that alleged Chinese intellectual property theft deprives the American economy of 600 billion U.S. dollars, annually. That number, also cited by other mainstream U.S. media like CNN, comes from a 2017 report of the Commission on the Theft of American IP, produced by the National Bureau of Asian Research, a non-profit U.S. organization. Those are only their estimates, yet to be verified independently. And how do you define theft?! According to whom?
Even then, she misidentifies this figure. The report actually says, "The total low-end value of the annual cost of IP theft" to the U.S. economy "may be as high as 600 billion U.S. dollars." Overall. It's not referring to China, but the whole world combined.
Dear Trish, perhaps you need a better research team.
Watching her commentary, though, it makes me realize: if the U.S. side approaches these trade talks with such bigotry and hostility, they'll lead nowhere.
The kind of language being used against China has been derogatory, to say the least: war, weapons, stealing, even that our country is "raping" their economy, by the way, how do you "rape" an economy? This is not the language of a trade "partner," but the insults you might hurl at an enemy.
China has tried to hold its head high and refrain from such "uncivil" language, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. The U.S. side did not hesitate to brandish the "weapon," and slap higher tariffs on China. Now, one year after the trade frictions first erupted, China itself is finally calling this a trade "war."
Can you negotiate with people who cross a line of decency? I don't think so. When they issue unreasonable demands, compounded by virtually pointing a gun at your head – in this case, of course, tariffs – even if you wanted to engage, you simply can't.
The U.S. now admits or even brags about this approach. On May 19, in an interview broadcast on Fox – yes, that same channel – President Trump said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping, "Don't expect a 50-50 deal. It has to be a deal in favor of America."
Well, this is the 21st century. The days when you could arm-twist a country to accept unequal treaties ended long ago. The Chinese people rejected such treaties back then – and will do so today, as well.
For people like Trish Regan, or anyone else who thinks that economics should be "weaponized" against China, they'll be disappointed. Two can play at that game. Nevertheless, China will remain "the adult in the room." Unless the U.S. side returns to civility and treats China as an equal, it's impossible to pursue productive trade talks.