by Rick Manning
China is alleged to harvest the organs of thousands of political dissidents it keeps in concentration camps, it threatens Hong Kong and Taiwan daily, it appears to be funding and assisting the North Korean nuclear missile program and is using the hundreds of billions of dollars of trade deficits to build a first-rate navy to defeat the U.S. as every year’s trade deficit pays for more than two years of China’s military spending.
So why are we trading with China and underwriting this totalitarian regime and mass murder with $380 billion of trade deficits every year?
That seems to be the question President Donald Trump is asking as the administration is now pushing for broader economic sanctions that would come atop the 30 percent tariffs on $250 billion of goods and the 15 percent on the remaining $300 billion of goods set to take effect soon. Here, Trump would be using the same set of laws that have been used against Iran, North Korea, Nicaragua, Libya, Russia and others to block currency exchanges, the import and export of securities and to generally disrupt commerce.
Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just implemented sanctions on fentanyl trafficking by China on August 21. According to the White House: “the Department of the Treasury announced it is identifying two Chinese nationals and a China-based Drug Trafficking Organization as significant foreign narcotics traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) and designated one associate and a China-based entity for being owned or controlled by one of the Chinese nationals.” Fentanyl killed 29,000 Americans in 2017 alone.
In addition, right now, U.S. Attorneys are going after Chinese banks that appear to be funding the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Per a federal court ruling granting subpoenas of financial records, “According to government investigators… North Korea manages to evade the sanctions by using Chinese front companies that cloak the true ownership of the funds involved.”
The filing continued, “According to the government, the scheme operated like this: Hobbled by the worthlessness of North Korea’s currency, the [North Korean entity] would use the [Chinese] Company to make or receive payments in U.S. dollars. These transactions helped North Korea access resources that would otherwise have been beyond its reach. For example, the Company’s assistance allegedly enabled North Korea to export hundreds of millions of dollars of coal and other minerals, generating revenue in U.S. currency that North Korea could then use to requisition other commodities vital to its weapons program. In these transactions, the Company routinely took advantage of U.S. correspondent bank accounts… held by banks outside the United States at banks located inside the United States.”
Elsewhere, Congress is actively considering measures to enact further sanctions against China for threatening Hong Kong, where protesters are marching in the streets in opposition to an extradition law that would enable China to prosecute Hong Kongers outside of Hong Kong.
The Pentagon is, in turn, stepping up its own condemnation of Beijing, noting a vast concentration camp system in China — what it calls “re-education centers” — that could be housing up to 3 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province alone. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver told a Pentagon briefing, “The [Chinese] are using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” justifying the use of the term because “given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to three million citizens out of a population of about 10 million”.
There are similar allegations of concentration camps in Tibet, as well, according to the Epoch Times’ Flora Yan, writing in March, “Recently, The Print used satellite images to prove that at least three ‘re-education camps’ are currently under construction in Tibet. The author of the survey, Vinayak Bha, is a colonel retired from the Indian military intelligence unit and is a well-known satellite image research expert. He has repeatedly revealed Chinese military deployment dynamics through satellite photos. This time, he revealed construction done by Chinese authorities in Tibet. The so-called “temple” of Tibetan Buddhism is actually a concentration camp that is surrounded by high walls and guard towers and has the same structural design as a prison. Observers warned that China may soon start mass detention of Tibetans following the model of concentration camps for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.” Since the Cultural Revolution and the invasion of Tibet, it is estimated 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed.
Flora noted, “Such destruction continues to this day. The CCP has forcibly resettled Tibetans in designated areas, restricted the use and teaching of the Tibetan language, strictly monitored all monasteries, and forcibly promoted ‘patriotic education,’ all of which accelerated the destruction of Tibetan culture and the sanitization of Tibet. Many Tibetan children living in metropolitan areas such as Lhasa have long lost the ability to express themselves in their mother tongue.”
Making matters worse, there are allegations of an ongoing genocide for organs of political prisoners that has been committed against Falun Gong, the Uighurs and others, according to the Independent Tribunal Into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China. The tribunal found, “Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale… of unmatched wickedness — on a death for death basis — with the killings by mass crimes committed in the last century.” The organ extractions allegedly occur in some cases while the victims are still alive.
These are crimes against humanity. So why are we financially supporting mass murder and human rights violations in our blind pursuit of cheaper goods? Have we taken leave of our senses? We have a choice.
In 2003 former President George W. Bush wrongly predicted that trade with China would promote prosperity and lead to democracy there: “Our commitment to democracy is tested in China. That nation now has a sliver, a fragment of liberty. Yet, China’s people will eventually want their liberty pure and whole. China has discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth. China’s leaders will also discover that freedom is indivisible — that social and religious freedom is also essential to national greatness and national dignity. Eventually, men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will insist on controlling their own lives and their own country.”
Instead, 16 years later President Xi Jinping has consolidated power to be leader for life and minority groups continue to be oppressed. All we’re accomplishing is financing handsomely a dictatorial regime while Wall Street whines over tariffs.
If we just switched the name China with Russia or Iran, would we even be having this debate? Maybe everyone might prefer sanctions, which are far more onerous than tariffs (since trade can become criminal at that point), and seem no less justified on the merits, and appear to be where Trump is going anyway. Again, he’s already hit China with sanctions on fentanyl last week and the threat for broader economic sanctions is quite real.
Even for members of Congress who tend to disagree with Trump on trade, the case for sanctions appears overwhelming, considering the other countries that have routinely had sanctions put upon them under the laws Congress has enacted. The opposition to sanctions or tariffs on China seems to rhyme with European opposition to sanctions on Iran, directly related to the big investments that have been made in China financially by U.S. companies. We’d effectively be sanctioning our own companies, an unusual situation to be in barring war, which I imagine is why many do not want to go there. They are so greedy they’re willing to go along with totalitarianism, all in the name of “free trade.”
The sanctions might be the only chance of avoiding a wider conflict later by dealing a significant blow to the Chinese economy now and forcing Beijing to the table.
Certainly, nobody wants war. Dialogue is always preferable, but I do wonder how proponents of human freedom can stomach continuing to do business with China considering their record of threatening national security and violating human rights. Should we really be underwriting genocide and endangering U.S. interests just to get slightly cheaper smart phones and computers?
– – –
Robert Romano if the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.