As the United States’ Ambassador in Beijing, I have the great pleasure of representing the American people to China’s government and 1.3 billion people. I lead a talented team of American diplomats who, today, are prioritizing a rebalance in our trade and investment relationship with China for the benefit of American business, workers, and farmers. This week the China Daily—a newspaper the Chinese Communist Party uses to circulate propaganda to foreign audiences—took out a paid advertisement in the Des Moines Register criticizing U.S. actions on trade.
In disseminating its propaganda, China’s government is availing itself of America’s cherished tradition of free speech and a free press by placing a paid advertisement in the Des Moines Register. In contrast, at the newsstand down the street here in Beijing you will find limited dissenting voices and will not see any true reflection of the disparate opinions that the Chinese people may have on China’s troubling economic trajectory, given that media is under the firm thumb of the Chinese Communist Party. Even in the case of this op-ed, one of China’s most prominent newspapers dodged the offer to publish. It gives me great pride to know I belong to a state, and a nation, that sticks by its commitment to free trade, free speech, and free exchange of ideas.
The Trump administration is putting America and Americans first by calling on China to live up to its pledge when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 to provide greater economic openness and to compete on a level playing field. Instead, China has failed to fully embrace the open, market-oriented principles that the United States champions. It has not adopted the principles upon which the World Trade Organization was founded. Moreover, in recent years Beijing has slowed or reversed market reforms, and is doubling down on a heavy interventionist role for the Chinese state. This will harm China’s own economic interests in the long run. In the meantime, it is simply unsustainable for the world’s second-largest economy to ignore or dismiss fundamental precepts of free and fair trade, while the United States and the rest of the world are forced to pay the price for China’s misguided and adversarial economic policies.
As Iowans know all too well, the Chinese have been waging unfair trade against the United States for years using tools like massive government subsidies to exploit our markets and high tariffs and non-tariff barriers to keep our products out. Most alarming for our future, the Chinese, guided by their Made in China 2025 industrial plan, are now engaged in a sustained campaign to acquire our technologies and intellectual property through practices ranging from forced technology transfer and the evasion of export controls to outright theft through cyber-enabled means and traditional spycraft – many Iowans remember the case in which a Chinese agent attempted to literally steal the seed corn from our fields.
Unfair Chinese economic policies have harmed small businesses and their employees across America. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave an example in a television interview last week that rings true for too many Iowa business owners:
“I ran a small business in Kansas before I came to Congress. I saw how companies were treated differently when they attempted to do business, whether they were trying to sell goods into China or to purchase goods, to export from China. I watched how American companies were treated unfairly, differently, a different set of rules. If they wanted to invest in my business in Kansas, they could have. Had I wanted to invest in a Chinese supplier there, I couldn’t. These are fundamentally unfair. The American people know that, and President Trump is going to fix it.”
For over a decade, the United States has attempted to negotiate with China in a cooperative and constructive manner. After careful study and analysis, the United States concluded that a stronger response to China’s unfair trade practices was needed. The Administration implemented tariffs to obtain elimination of China’s unfair policies and begin to level the playing field between American companies and their Chinese competitors. Unfortunately, China has responded to such action by taking further steps to harm American workers, farmers, and businesses through retaliatory actions – and is now doubling down on that bullying by running propaganda ads in our own free press.
To be clear, the Administration is not seeking to constrain China’s economic growth through our actions. If China is serious about its commitment to reform, its WTO obligations and fair trading practices, the Government of China should instead take appropriate steps to change its behavior and adopt market-oriented reforms that lead to fairer trade, freer markets, and prosperity for all. We think these reforms would lead to more prosperity within China.
America does not take the imposition of tariffs lightly. The entire world benefits from free trade. In the end, the best way to increase prosperity for both the United States and China is for trade to be fair, reciprocal, and balanced. The result will be a more prosperous exchange that will allow the full promise of free trade to flourish. In Des Moines, in Beijing, and everywhere in the world.