China’s most loyal and lucrative partner is not a foreign government or national leader. It’s a group of multi-national businesses, Hollywood elites, ivory-tower intellectuals, weak-kneed diplomats, and entrenched bureaucrats located here in the United States. This group has championed economic integration and appeasement for decades, relentlessly demanding that America forgive every act of aggression committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), no matter the cost to the American people. Some in this group are drunk on Chinese money, and some are blinded by a naïve hope that China will moderate. But all live in fear of CCP reprisal.
Now, this “China Lobby” has a new leader: Joe Biden’s secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo.
Secretary Raimondo recently stated that she thinks “robust commercial engagement will help to mitigate any potential tensions [with China].” This is simply wrong, and has been for over a quarter century. Since 1995, our goods trade with China has exploded nearly 900 percent, to over half a trillion dollars a year. Last year, China was our largest trading partner, and was responsible for more than a third of our trade deficit. It’s hard to imagine a more “robust commercial engagement” than the one that currently exists.
Far from moderating as a result of this generous and highly lucrative trade relationship, China has become increasingly repressive at home and belligerent abroad. China is now the most aggressive and prolific abuser of free trade anywhere in the world, responsible for up to 80 percent of all intellectual-property theft and the subject of nearly half of all FBI counterintelligence cases involving economic espionage. China’s economic predation has destroyed millions of blue-collar American jobs and costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year. There is no reason to believe that further engagement will yield different results.
Nevertheless, Secretary Raimondo announced plans last week to bring American executives to China and further entangle our economies. Secretary Raimondo is not only doing the bidding of the China Lobby — she’s actively recruiting for it. In an irresistible feedback loop, American businesses go to China, get hooked on cheap Chinese capital and labor, turn a blind eye to the CCP’s human-rights abuses and technology theft, and then lobby in Washington for greater entanglement with the PRC. Secretary Raimondo is contributing to this vicious cycle, which allows China to maximize the economic harm to, and internal divisions within, the United States.
Perhaps most outrageously, Secretary Raimondo has asserted that “there’s no point in talking about decoupling” our economy from China’s. In just seven words, Raimondo threw away all leverage she may have had in negotiations with the Chinese. The possibility of economic decoupling is one of the most potent threats the U.S. can wield over China. It would cost China trillions of dollars and access to the most reliable and desirable market for Chinese businesses. By taking it off the table, Raimondo guaranteed that negotiations would be a failure before they’d even begun.
Although immediate economic decoupling could be disruptive, gradual, targeted decoupling is both possible and badly needed. The United States currently relies on our greatest adversary for everything from medicine to machine tools. This dependence is not sustainable and must be ended.
The Commerce Department’s fealty to the China lobby extends from its most senior leaders all the way down to the most obscure, self-impressed, preening bureaucrats at its Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). This important but little-known office is tasked with controlling the export of our nation’s most critical technologies. Unfortunately, instead of keeping these technologies out of the hands of our adversaries, it too often looks the other way as tech companies sell them and other trade secrets to shell companies for China’s military. Recently, the BIS agreed to give trade exemptions to Huawei — one of China’s most infamous companies, which the U.S. government has labeled a “Chinese military company.” The employees of this critical bureau can’t even be bothered to develop lists of the emerging and foundational technologies that they are supposed to keep out of Chinese hands. It doesn’t matter to them that they were mandated by law three years ago to build these lists. They obstinately refuse to do their job as our nation faces one of the greatest foreign threats to its economy in history.
After declaring war on Imperial Japan, President Franklin Roosevelt is rumored to have joked that he hoped the State Department would remain neutral in the conflict. Today, Americans can only hope the same of the Commerce Department. If we cannot expect the Commerce Department to assist American workers and companies, we must demand that it at least not assist the Chinese Communist Party. President Biden ought to remind Secretary Raimondo that she is the U.S. secretary of Commerce, not the secretary of the China Lobby. And Congress ought to strip the BIS from the Department of Commerce and place it within a national-security-minded agency that will ensure it acts urgently to protect American technology.
The American people want a government that is dedicated to protecting their security and promoting their prosperity, not one that is subservient to the narrow interests of a clique of businessmen, Wall Street traders, and university chancellors. Our nation deserves leaders who will vigorously confront China and strip its enablers in the China Lobby from positions of power and influence.