China: If They Pull the Plug, We're Screwed

One of the most dangerous low-level conflicts in the world right now is the fight over the South China Sea, and if a war breaks out there, it could tank the American economy.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of East Asian geopolitics, here’s a little refresher as to what’s going on: After decades of more or less peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, China has, over the past few years, started to stake its claims to the waterways off its southern coast.

The problem, though, is that China isn’t the only country with claims to the South China Sea -- Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines also claim parts of this strategically important body of water as their own. But the Chinese are doing everything in their power to make sure they’re the top dogs in the region.

They’ve even gone so far as to build fake island chains by dumping billions of tons of dirt on top of reefs and in shallow waters so that they can then declare that "new land" as Chinese territory and use it to strengthen their maritime claims.

America, which has its own strategic interests in the region as well as mutual defense pacts with the Philippines and Japan, has tried to keep China in check, but so far this hasn’t done much.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. As Barry C. Lynn of the New America Foundation pointed out in a recent piece for Reuters, back in the 1990s, supporters of so-called free trade told us that opening up our economy to Chinese goods would “liberalize” China.

They said it would make China more willing to engage peacefully with the rest of the international community. But 20 years later, it’s pretty obvious that the exact opposite has happened.

China is now more aggressive than ever, and it’s bullying its neighbors and largely ignoring America's objections. And that’s because the Chinese know there’s nothing we can do to stop them without destroying ourselves in the process.

Thanks to so-called free trade, our economy and our ability to function as a nation is now hugely dependent on China.

As Barry Lynn pointed out in his piece for Reuters, “[T]he United States depends on China for myriad items that U.S. citizens need every day. These include 100 percent of key electronics and chemical components. They even include basic ingredients for some of the nation’s most important drugs, including antibiotics. Given that supply chains often run on a just-in-time basis… there are often no backup supplies nearby.”

In other words, if war broke out between China and the U.S. tomorrow, China could simply stop all exports to the U.S. and our economy would come screeching to a halt faster than you can say "permanent normal trade relations."

How’s that for a wake-up call, conservatives?

We are totally at the mercy of the world’s largest communist dictatorship. If China wanted to cut us off, we’d be screwed.

Which begs the question -- if this has been the result of a so-called free trade with just one country -- China -- why are we even thinking about entering into the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

How could we possibly benefit from a massive trade deal that involves 11 other countries and is the largest proposed trade deal in human history?

The fact is that we can’t, and we won’t. As Alexander Hamilton understood when he wrote his famous Report on Manufactures in 1791, the ultimate source of wealth for all nations is for them to protect domestic industries through strong tariffs that make goods produced by factories here at home cheaper than those made abroad.

That’s what we did from the founding of the Republic until the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush years, and it’s what we need to do now if we want to get out from under China’s boot.

We’re letting corporations decide what’s important for our national policies, and it’s given a foreign dictatorship way more power over our economy than any sane country should allow.

It’s time to put this failed experiment with so-called free trade to rest once and for all. We need to end permanent trade relations with China, pull out of NAFTA and the WTO, and, today, we need to just say no to the TPP. Call your members of Congress and tell him or her to "just say no" to Fast Track and the TPP.

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