Rebecca Grant: Coronavirus forces China reboot – rethink relationship, from trade to Olympics

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After Americans flatten the curve of coronavirus, it’s time to push back another spike: our increasing economic dependence on China, where the ruling Communist Party cares only about staying in power.

The facts are clear. China is not our friend or ally or even a responsible business partner. Right now, between 30 percent and 40 percent of world national economic output is affected by the coronavirus shutdowns, calculated the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in a report for the G20.

“Once we get clear of this terrible pandemic, it is imperative that we all rethink that relationship,” British politician Iain Duncan Smith told The Daily Mail on Saturday.

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China’s President Xi is petrified that after this inferno the U.S. and others will turn their backs on globalization. In a March 26 letter to the G20, Xi pledged to increase active pharmaceutical supplies and implored G20 nations to cut tariffs and keep up the unfettered flow of trade.

Xi’s words don’t match his actions. In the face of this global crisis, China has hunkered down. China has tried to pin the origins of the coronavirus on the U.S. Army and on Italy. These inept, Communist Party responses show China is not ready to act with honesty or compassion. China wants to claim victory in their “peoples war,” as Xi called, it but they don’t want to change anything. Yes, Beijing has sent doctors and face masks.  But the Communist Party’s two-month cover-up attempt cost lives around the world.

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Here’s a gut check for you. In less than two years, Beijing plans to open the 2022 Winter Olympics under the motto “Joyful Rendezvous Upon Pure Ice and Snow.” Revolting, isn’t it?

Who wants to celebrate with the Communist Party that waited too long to tell the world the truth about their Wuhan COVID-19 outbreak?

Back in 2015, snow-free Beijing was chosen largely because the world still wanted to believe in China.

It’s time for a total reconsideration of China’s role in the world and specifically, the U.S. economic relationship with China. Decoupling won’t happen all at once, but pharmaceuticals, 5G wireless, agriculture policy and of course imports and exports all need a new look post-coronavirus.

Bringing drug manufacturing back home to the USA is a top priority. China’s push into generic drug manufacturing has made the U.S. – and much of the world – too dependent on China’s unregulated producers for common drugs like ibuprofen, doxycycline and others.

Its increasingly clear that coronavirus ended globalization as we know it: the phase dating from the day China joined the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11, 2001, until December 2019, when China fumbled its response to the Wuhan virus outbreak. 

Another must-win is blocking Huawei from world domination of 5G through ridiculous price-cutting. This battle was deemed critical well before coronavirus, and now it simply must be won. The risk of trusting Huawei with data capture and vital communications is just too high.

Brace for bumpy agricultural policy. Farm exports are already in flux. China’s purchases of U.S. soybeans hit a 15-year low during tariff wars in 2019. China still places a 68 percent tariff on imported U.S. pork. The ag policy is very complicated, but American farmers should not be at the mercy of China’s state-run agriculture firms.

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The U.S. can also cut back on Chinese imports. In 2019, the top U.S. imports from China were cell phones at $64 billion, computers at $42 billion, followed by toys and sporting goods at $26 billion, with telecommunications equipment and non-wool apparel each at $24 billion. Cell phone imports have doubled since 2011. Fashion, home gadgets, electronics, we all have them, but somehow, we made do with a lot less of this stuff from China 10 years ago, and we should again.

We can do this, folks. Canada and Mexico were America’s top two trade partners in 2019, with China ranked third in total value, which is exports and imports combined. Our neighbors Canada and Mexico really are the most important partners, accounting for a combined 30 percent of U.S. total trade vs. just 13.5 percent for China.

While Washington will have much to consider, its increasingly clear that coronavirus ended globalization as we know it: the phase dating from the day China joined the World Trade Organization on Dec. 11, 2001, until December 2019, when China fumbled its response to the Wuhan virus outbreak.

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China has learned little from 18 years of good treatment by major world economies. Not much has changed since 2007, when China blew up one of its own weather satellites on orbit, creating 3,000 pieces of space junk that remain a problem today. Don’t even get me started on China’s illegal air bases in the South China Sea, their new nuclear weapons and their forays into Central and South America.

I’m hoping the 2022 Olympics move to Norway and that before the first downhill ski race, the U.S. and allies have flattened the curve of China’s rise and intrusion into Western economic life.

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