By Dr. Bruce Hartman:
Many news outlets have accused President Trump of starting a trade war with China. The real truth is that as a country we have been involved in a trade war with China well before President Trump recently started fighting back. For a long time Americans have suffered from the effects of a one sided battle with China. American jobs have been lost and our technology has been stolen from the unfair trade practices by China. Prior to President Trump taking a stand against these practices, our politicians stood by silently not willing to push back at the bullying tactics of China. They have ignored the threat, both economically and morally.
The reality is that our business community has known about these practices and has long demanded that we put up a stronger fight. The steel industry being a good example of how China has created an unequal playing field for American businesses. China provides subsidies to their steel companies and in turn their steel companies dump the cheaper steel into the global markets to gain market share. While our American companies, who receive no subsidies, have to compete against Chinese companies whose costs are driven down by the subsidies. Over the last few decades our steel industry has suffered and many American jobs have been lost.
At the same time our steel industry has had to rightfully comply with standards to prevent the ecological side effects of producing steel. China on the other hand has seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world. Many of its citizens wear face masks to prevent breathing air that causes cancer and lung issues. Again, while most of the rest of the world actively tries to comply with clean air standards, China ignores them. In effect lowering their cost of production while ruining their and others environment.
Our technology companies have to provide the hard earned research to China when they ship products to China. Allowing Chinese companies to copy our research and produce similar products. In effect, American technology has become the impetus for the creation of competing companies in China.
This issues are not new and most American business people have long known they have been competing on an uneven playing field. At the same time workers have lost jobs due to these unfair practices with no advocate to stand up for them.
We can say that Trump started this fight, but It is better and more accurate to say Trump is finally taking a stand to protect our technology, companies, environment and workers from unfair competition.
Wall Street says that it is hurting our competitive advantages by fighting back. Maybe in the short term, but over time we have to level the playing field. Wall Street is wrong that the tariffs will hurt American business performance. They will say that our costs will rise and businesses will make less profits. This is simply not true.
Take Restoration Hardware for example. Long reliant of Chinese goods, they have recently moved their manufacturing to other countries or back to America. Their last quarterly results exceeded expectations, which resulted in a 17% increase in their stock price.
Many American companies are turning away from China. In the last year alone, China has seen a significant drop in manufacturing requests. As their exports have dropped over 10%.
Simply said, American corporations should rethink doing business with China. Those that are, are finding more profitable alternatives. To do otherwise is a poor long term strategy.
Engrained in the American ethos is a desire to compete fairly and to be good environmental stewards. This is being taken advantage of by immoral foreign countries like China. We also can’t ignore the behavior of poor human rights and lack of concern for our environment. This type of behavior gives us very strong clues as to how they will compete in the business world.
For instance, the Open Doors organization ranks China’s persecution rate against Christians at one of the highest globally. Pastors are being imprisoned for simply holding church. The close to one hundred million Christians in China are forbidden from worshiping and from having organized practices.
China is currently finding ways to get around the tariffs by labeling products as being made in other countries. Recently, Vietnam discovered that a large number of goods were labeled as being made in Vietnam, but actually produced in China. These are the clues that should tell us that need to be careful with whom we do business.
Our politicians have long ignored these practices in the expediency to get deals done and have smooth relations. These practices however, give a very clear clue how China handles business dealings, which is no differently than how they handle religious freedoms and environmental pollution. They are wolves in sheep clothing.
As Christians, we are warned through the Gospel to not ignore the behavior of wolves. We are told to be kind as doves, but wise as serpents. This is sound and practical advice that has been ignored. In my book Jesus & Co., I give many examples of why it is important to only do business with people or businesses that you can trust.
Trump didn’t start this fight, but like most business people he knows about the unfair business practices of China. Blaming him for the turmoil is short sighted and ignores the systematic abuses that have occurred for many years. As Christians we all know the lesson of dealing with wolves. There is no winning scenario.
We are a country whose primary ethos is of fair play, which is being taken advantage of by lesser scrupled governments. Tariffs are our way of leveling the playing field. If America is to be a great nation, we can not give into “go along to get a long.” We shouldn’t relearn what we already know. That people or governments that handle morality poorly will conduct business in the same way.
Some will say that we are becoming nationalistic and should think globally. This is not the issue with tariffs, it is about protecting our workers and businesses. As a country we have always thought about our global neighbors. After World War II America became the main rebuilder of other nations. Americans will always be the first to help those countries in need. Americans will always desire to be the first to help other nations deal with natural disasters. The American people themselves will always think about helping neighbors. We are not being nationalistic, but defending ourselves from unfair business practices.
We shouldn’t blame President Trump, he didn’t start this fight. He is trying to protect our country from immoral countries unfairly taking our jobs away and hurting the great economic engine that is uniquely American.
Dr. Bruce L Hartman is the author of Jesus & Co.. Dr. Hartman, is a former Fortune 500 business leader who now helps businesses through the lessons of the Gospel. His website is www.brucelhartman.com.