As America's Trapped In Ideological Civil War, China Advances Economy
by Sara Hsu
While the United States engages in an ideological civil war about the role of the government in the economy, China has continued to advance its economy under a stable regime, albeit authoritarian. Many analysts have noted that China has an opportunity to become a world leader on several fronts—economy, international relations, environment—while America’s legislative juggernaut grinds to a halt, and the differences in legislation passed in the U.S. and China after President Trump took office could not throw this into starker relief.
America, polarized and paralyzed
On the economic front, the U.S. is divided into Trump supporters, who advocate for privatization of markets and public goods, including national monuments, Medicare, air traffic control, and infrastructure. Trump supporters also back policies that focus on reducing trade and reshoring jobs. On the other hand are Trump opponents, who push for accessible health care, free trade, environmental protection, “green” sector job creation. Donald Trump has acted as a lightning rod for this polarizing controversy, which has resulted in legislative gridlock and national discontent.
How much economic legislation, after all, has been passed under President Trump? Nothing truly consequential. Trump did issue executive orders that impact the economy, including an order to enforce countervailing duties, which were implemented on Chinese steel imports last year, one potentially permitting offshore drilling, and an order for the U.S. government to buy and hire more American products and workers. None of these is considered major, which would require approval of the Legislature.
China, full-speed ahead
By contrast, since Trump's inauguration date on January 20 of this year, China’s various government departments have passed hundreds of minor measures and several major economic measures, including measures setting up a large fund to promote high valued added service exports, regulating dangerous asset management products, altering the exchange rate valuation, furthering overcapacity policies, and reforming state owned enterprises, among others. These are major, economy-shaping changes that reflect China’s desire to restructure its economy while reining in risks. Furthermore, China’s One Belt One Road policy, which aims to build up infrastructure across Europe, Asia and Africa will have a major economic impact on both China and the world, with the U.S. playing a supporting, rather than a leading, role.
Ongoing differences, dangerous new similarity
To some extent, the difference between China and the U.S. is due to a contrast in regime type. China, with an authoritarian government, can carry out policies from the top down without having to enter into a long debate or even a conversation, while the U.S. must pass most major policies by obtaining the cooperation of Congress and the President, which can take months or years.
However, in less savory ways, China and the U.S. under President Trump are becoming more alike. China has passed legislation that infringes on human rights—for example, banning certain Muslim names for Uighur babies and banning Muslim beards and body coverings. This type of policy would normally have little place in the United States, except of late, as Trump attempted twice to implement a Muslim ban.
Implications for the U.S. and China
This means that the U.S. is at a level of ethics that it has called China out on previously, but at a rate of legislation that is far overshadowed by that of China. Put simply, America is losing its economic and moral superiority to China, with no end in sight. Many Americans would like to see the President support policies and regimes that are more human-rights friendly. This just underlines the fact that the current civil war in the U.S. is one of ideas, one that drills down to the level of basic values and world views.
China is poised to move its economy forward faster in the short to medium run than America, a nation caught in political paralysis. While China may not have surpassed the U.S. as an economic power, it is coming closer than ever.
Contact: Jason Tian
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