Who Wins the Trade War, US or China?

On Aug 5, 2018, the first Sunday of the month, the ONCS at Ridgewood United Methodist Church, Ridgewood, NJ (see Immortality Club, 8-2-2018, typakmusings.com) had as its guest speaker J, who had grown up in the church before going off to teach political science at universities in Asia.

Dispensing with a formal presentation he invites the group’s participation in a Q&A session and goes straight to the burning question of the day, especially in the Democrat majority state: will America survive the consequences of the trade war set off by Trump’s foolhardy tariffs on Chinese goods?

“For a while,” J concludes after surveying the statistics, billions, even trillions of dollars worth of goods across the board to sustain modern American lifestyle. “With stopgap subsidies to those who scream like the soybean growers. The Chinese are smart and punch back right where it hurts most, the soft underbelly of America.”

“But the EU has offered to buy our soybeans?” I suggest, hoping for the superfluity of their subsidy.

“Only a fraction of what China can buy,” counters M, an Onc and dedicated Trump detractor. “Tofu is still not a staple of European diet.”

“Right,” J is on a roll. “But American vulnerability is not limited to soybeans. The American body is soft everywhere, not just the underbelly. For the last few decades it has soaked, submerged in the numbing sweet elixir of Chinese manufacture and the subsidies will multiply ballooning the budget until it pops. Either subsidies will cease or rampant inflation stalk the land, Americans everywhere screaming for Trump’s blood.”

“But the Chinese will suffer, too,” I hazard. “Look at the steel furnaces firing up all over America. China has mountains of steel they cannot dump anywhere except maybe in the South China Sea to build their idiotic islands.”

“Okay,” J concedes. “It comes down to pain tolerance and, unlike Americans, the Chinese are known for unlimited capacity. Their whole history is endurance. They just suffer and wait for years and years, generation after generation. Remember Deng Xiaoping’s answer when asked by an American journalist what he thought of the French Revolution (1789-99): it’s too early to tell.”

“After two centuries?” I laugh in disbelief. “I don’t think he went to school beyond sixth grade. No, the Chinese I know bleed and scream just as much as any American, and are just as incontinent and foolhardy like us. Okay, like Trump. But he has a better chance of prevailing because Chinese exposure is greater than ours. Suppose trading stops this instant. They’ll have ten times more stuff rotting on the docks of Shanghai than ours on both coasts. Look at all the megacities they have built and can’t fill, the trillion dollar One Belt One Road Plan, including the New Eurasian Land Bridge (Railroad), to dominate global trade, all a flop. No capacity can take that much hurt.”

“Look,” M, an idealist and humanist at heart, tries to raise the discussion to a higher level. “All these tariffs and trade wars will disappear if we have a global government, a global United States or EU magnified. Just as Massachusetts won’t drop a nuclear bomb on Vermont for deep sea fishing rights, we won’t bomb Russia or China or vice versa about who makes what.”

“Speaking of nuclear bombs, we should get along with Russia and China to survive and trade wars are certainly not the way to go about it,” J agrees. “Clinton let slip a golden opportunity right after the collapse of the USSR. Weak and clueless, Russia would have joined NATO and a Transatlantic Federation, TF, could have emerged, which would have eventually brought China into the fold, the rest of the world following suit. But he had to bow to the Polish lobby.”

“Isn’t Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki a prelude to TF?” I jump to peddle my idea (see Helsinki 2018: the Finest Hour of American Diplomacy, 7-19-2018, typakmusings.com).

“Not immediately after he beefs up the NATO budget by hundreds of billions with new member contributions,” opines S, a recognized sage among the Oncs. “But in time the additional financial burden may make the Europeans or the Americans howl or even the Russians for that matter. The best scenario is for them all to blink and yell, Enough! at the same time, instead of playing chicken to the bitter end, towards MAD, mutual assured destruction.”

“Such simultaneity would be facilitated by interracial, intercultural, international marriage like J’s,” I mention, referring to his gracious Chinese wife who has given him two gorgeous Eurasian children, and go on to plug my book. “That is exactly the theme of The Polyglot: Union of Korea and Japan, amazon.com, where the protagonist, a Korean with Russian and Central Asian upbringing, marries an American girl, and also discovers that his biological father is a Japanese tycoon, not a famous Korean patriotic poet married to his Korean doctor mother. It urges the union of the two historic rivals, Korea and Japan, a similar invitation to China in its sights. Asia so unified will join the TF. Your World Union, M, would ensue as a superstructure anchored to such firm regional bases, rather than a federation of individual states.”

“I can’t agree more strongly,” J chimes in, and takes down the title of the book, promising to incorporate it in his curriculum. I love this guy. Too bad I cannot talk more fully about his identity or vision about US and China relations. Perhaps I have given away too much as it is, catching him off guard. He must have thought he is with his old home church crowd, especially its Oncs, the terminals, who would surely take whatever they learn to the grave. In addition to his scholarly work and teaching he has close dealings with the Chinee government in an advisory capacity under an implicit NDA (nondisclosure agreement). I hope what I have disclosed so far does not come to haunt him. To be fair, however, he hasn’t revealed anything all that secret. Anyone with internet access could have figured it out.

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