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.


KCRuger's picture
KCRuger 9 years 2 weeks ago

Of course our lawyer-filled Congress screwed us in trade with China by letting them enact barriers to entry as well as currency devaluation, resulting in a trade deficit which represents welfare to China at our expense. Our computers are made in China, so what's the liklihood of a weapons system working against them? Chinese political leaders are scientists & military; they took our lawyers to the cleaners.

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 2 weeks ago

I remember back in the '70's there was a theory that if China and the United States were to go to war, China could win by simply surrendering - the US could never manage or control a country the size of China.

Now, apparently, they can win the war before it even happens.

This is progress???

karlmarx1947's picture
karlmarx1947 9 years 2 weeks ago

Of course. China also is the largest single owner of U.S. treasuries with 1.2 trillion dollars of the or about 7.2% of the entire debt. If it were to try to cell the debt wholesale interest rates throughout the U.S. would rise taking the U.S. economy and probably bringing China along with it. I personally have about as much difficulty as China being essential to U.S. business as say Germany, but it is abject incompetence to give this sort of power especially for military components to a single foreign country if true.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 2 weeks ago

In reference to free trade......had our elected officials respected the will of the rabble instead of the royals, in other words, the vast majority instead of the lilliputian minority, we wouldn't be trapped in this free trade national security malfunction.

I shake my head everytime I think about it, there are multi millions of us, and only a relative handful of them......WTF? We need to outlaw monopoly capitalism/extreme wealth, and thus the arbitrary power that comes with it.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

Sherman Anti-trust Act outlaws monopoly. We need to a way to say it differently.

nimblecivet 9 years 2 weeks ago
Quote from article above:

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s rebuke to Ash Carter was quite detailed. The key point: the code of conduct in the South China Sea should be – and in fact will be — negotiated between China and ASEAN. Everybody knows it across Southeast Asia.


Beijing claims “undisputed” sovereignty over at least 80% of the South China Sea. It’s not only about at least $5 trillion in unexplored oil and gas; this is right in the middle of a mega-busy, global economy prime naval highway where Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan, South Korea and many an ASEAN nation exchange energy and a myriad of goods.

Maritime law is not so simple as to be relegated to a body like ASEAN. Maybe the U.N. but basically its a multilateral diplomatic thing where really nobody has absolute sovereignty very far from their coast. Which is a good thing. And which is why China is building those islands. Well, they can build them but if the issue escalates there will be a lot of diplomacy before anything happens. A lot of those countries that use that route are not hostile to the U.S. and not necessarilly interested in China having unilateral authority there. Japan comes to mind for example. Also the Phillipines.

nimblecivet 9 years 2 weeks ago
The South China Sea Word War
By Pepe Escobar
June 03, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "Asia Times"

Washington never ceases to remind the world that “freedom of navigation” in the Strait of Malacca – through which China imports a sea of energy – is guaranteed by the U.S. Navy.

There's no way China can beat us in the sea. They need that energy. Not much to worry about unless Russia and China go even farther in developing ties (including energy) which will take a while. Until then, overlapping business interests will frustrate any drive to war. If it happens it would be after things blow up in the Middle East or Ukraine. Though even then China gives diplomatic support to Russia and sometimes Iran but isn't interested in military actions overseas.

So, for now other people want our lifestyle (for some reason) and since the nations in that area don't have any particular inclination towards China the real question is what is the popular will regarding the free-trade deal in those places. What I want to know is whether the average citizen in places like Indonesia recognizes the impact to their future it would have. The anti-democratic provisions of free-trade agreements usually are enforced most rigorously on "developing" countries. But hey, the WTO will provide you a free lawyer if you need one.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 9 years 2 weeks ago

Thom has raised an issue concerning our almost total dependence on foreign manufacturing sources to provide us with everything except the implements of war that we still continue to manufacture in this country. Our former manufacturing base and our strategic geographical location between two of the planet's largest oceans was our biggest asset in the past but now we are totally dependent on a host of basic goods that must be shipped from foreign shores over oceans that would immediately become part of an international battlefield in the event of a future World War. This is why China is currently sitting in the Catbird Seat with most of our former manufacturing located in their country and their recent partnership with Russia that has untold quantities of virtually untapped natural resources and a Cold War military, with nuclear capability, that is still intact ! The new BRICS economic order is poised to become the planet's dominant force with a growing list of countries applying for membership including E.U. Members such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal who are seriously considering a change which would most likely lead to a collapse of the E.U. and the end of America's military dominance in Europe when a crumbling E.U. also breaks up the NATO Alliance that has been in place for sixty six years now ! All in all a gift from the Capitalist that value higher profits over their obligation to this country that supported and funded their growth and expansion for over two centuries !

tom kauser 9 years 2 weeks ago

If those island be airports than who cares about the south china sea unless we are stuck in a time warp my kness hurt can i get out from under my desk yet?

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 2 weeks ago

China doesn't just have our factories, it has a near monopoly on rare-earth elements necessary to manufacture anything computerized, including cell phones. It may be possible to mine them from the ocean floor soon, but right now, the whole world is beholden to China because of that one thing. Recycling old electronics can help.

KaraGirl's picture
KaraGirl 9 years 2 weeks ago

In my mind this is just another example of where corporate greed superseded the good of the American people. Thank you Nike, thank you Martha Stewart and thank you to every other us based corporation that thought that it could make more money by shipping production to China and every other country in the far east. They made their money and now we are forced to look at another possible cold war, only this time we are Russia, we are the ones Who are not equiped to survive for any length of time. We are the ones that won't go bankrupt, and loose everything, we already are bankrupt, thus the plan to take down the U.S. constitution, the greatest peice of legislation ever written by man is underway. Thank you. Republicans, thank you the new world order, thank you multinational corporations for distroying America the only country that stood in your way.

Can we sit hear and let them do this, can we say that they won. Burny we need you now more than ever!!!

Burny Sanders for president!!!!! Or God help us all.........

KaraGirl's picture
KaraGirl 9 years 2 weeks ago

By the way I just realised it should be Berny. not Burny lol. I apologize to Mr. Sanders for misspelling his name.

KDelphi's picture
KDelphi 9 years 2 weeks ago

Pretty sure you didnt mean it to sound that way...but the "first concern" over war should not be that "our economy would tank"...well, it is true, but, we have no one to blame but ourselves...your point on TPP is well taken

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 2 weeks ago

mathboy -- I thought Thom said we have those rare earth elements in the US. We just quit mining them because it was not profitable enough.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 9 years 2 weeks ago

KaraGirl, you should be able to just edit your own comment.

chuckle8, I must have missed that, but I based my comment on an article I'd read.

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