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  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Labor market and cultural disruptions in the United States are real and important, as is China’s current and unfortunate turn toward illiberalism and empire. But pretending today that there was a better trade policy choice in 2000—when Congress granted China “permanent normal trade relations” (PNTR) status and paved the way for broader engagement—is misguided. It assumes too much, ignores too much, and demands too much. Worse, it could lead to truly bad governance: increasing U.S. protectionism; forgiving the real and important failures of our policymakers, CEOs, and unions over the last two decades; and preventing a political consensus for real policy solutions. Indeed, that is happening now.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Markets, Bilateral Relations, Trade, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kam Hon Chu
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In addition to foreign investment absorption, Hong Kong plays a pioneering role in the internationalization of the renminbi (RMB). Despite the lack of comprehensive statistics on the volume of offshore RMB transactions, Hong Kong is for sure one of the largest, if not the largest, global centers for offshore RMB businesses. According to the Triennial Central Bank Survey (BIS 2019), for instance, Hong Kong was the largest global offshore RMB foreign exchange market, with an average daily turnover of US$107.6 billion as of April 2019, considerably higher than the US$56.7 billion for London and the US$42.6 billion for Singapore.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Investment, Financial Development
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Hong Kong
  • Author: Martin Chorzempa
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Cato Journal
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Digital currency and fintech have been some of the most powerful forces for freedom and personal liberty in China for the past decade, but their future influence is uncertain. Starting as a disruptive force that gave Chinese unprecedented autonomy in their financial lives, connected either to global cryptocurrency networks or local tech ecosystems built by private firms, a new chapter is beginning. In this new era, one speech urging an emphasis on innovation instead of regulation can seemingly bring the full force of the Chinese state to bear onto a firm that once disrupted state banks with impunity. Technologies like blockchain first embraced by libertarians and cryptography enthusiasts as freeing money from dependence on the state look poised to become tools for governments to increase their ability to monitor and shape financial transactions. Meanwhile, disruptive fintech tools have become symbiotic with the major state banks, which will retain their role as the core of the financial system.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Finance, Digital Currency , Transactions
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Scott Lincicome, Huan Zhu
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions, American policymakers have again embraced “industrial policy.” Both President Biden and his predecessor, as well as legislators from both parties, have advocated a range of federal support for American manufacturers to fix perceived weaknesses in the U.S. economy and to counter China’s growing economic clout. These and other industrial policy advocates, however, routinely leave unanswered important questions about U.S. industrial policy’s efficacy and necessity: What is “Industrial Policy”? Advocates of “industrial policy” often fail to define the term, thus permitting them to ignore past failures and embrace false successes while preventing a legitimate assessment of industrial policies’ costs and benefits. Yet U.S. industrial policy’s history of debate and implementation establishes several requisite elements – elements that reveal most “industrial policy successes” not to be “industrial policy” at all. What are the common obstacles to effective U.S. industrial policy? Several obstacles have prevented U.S. industrial policies from generating better outcomes than the market. This includes legislators’ and bureaucrats’ inability to “pick winners” and efficiently allocate public resources (Hayek’s “Knowledge Problem”); factors inherent in the U.S. political system (Public Choice Theory); lack of discipline regarding scope, duration, and budgetary costs; interaction with other government policies that distort the market at issue; and substantial unseen costs. What “problem” will industrial policy solve? The most common problems purportedly solved by industrial policy proposals are less serious than advocates claim or unfixable via industrial policy. This includes allegations of widespread U.S. “deindustrialization” and a broader decline in American innovation; the disappearance of “good jobs”; the erosion of middle‐​class living standards; and the destruction of American communities. Do other countries’ industrial policies demand U.S. industrial policy? The experiences of other countries generally cannot justify U.S. industrial policy because countries have different economic and political systems. Regardless, industrial policy successes abroad – for example, in Japan, Korea and Taiwan – are exaggerated. Also, China’s economic growth and industrial policies do not justify similar U.S. policies, considering the market‐​based reasons for China’s rise, the Chinese policies’ immense costs, and the systemic challenges that could derail China’s future growth and geopolitical influence. These answers argue strongly against a new U.S. embrace of industrial policy. The United States undoubtedly faces economic and geopolitical challenges, including ones related to China, but the solution lies not in copying China’s top‐​down economic planning. Reality, in fact, argues much the opposite.
  • Topic: Government, Industrial Policy, Manufacturing, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: John Mueller
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: China, even if it rises, does not present much of a security threat to the United States. Policymakers increasingly view China’s rapidly growing wealth as a threat. China currently ranks second, or perhaps even first, in the world in gross domestic product (although 78th in per capita GDP), and the fear is that China will acquire military prowess commensurate with its wealth and feel impelled to carry out undesirable military adventures. However, even if it continues to rise, China does not present much of a security threat to the United States. China does not harbor Hitler‐​style ambitions of extensive conquest, and the Chinese government depends on the world economy for development and the consequent acquiescence of the Chinese people. Armed conflict would be extremely—even overwhelmingly—costly to the country and, in particular, to the regime in charge. Indeed, there is a danger of making China into a threat by treating it as such and by engaging in so‐​called balancing efforts against it. Rather than rising to anything that could be conceived to be “dominance,” China could decline into substantial economic stagnation. It faces many problems, including endemic (and perhaps intractable) corruption, environmental devastation, slowing growth, a rapidly aging population, enormous overproduction, increasing debt, and restive minorities in its west and in Hong Kong. At a time when it should be liberalizing its economy, Xi Jinping’s China increasingly restricts speech and privileges control by the antiquated and kleptocratic Communist Party over economic growth. And entrenched elites are well placed to block reform. That said, China’s standard of living is now the highest in its history, and it’s very easy to envision conditions that are a great deal worse than life under a stable, if increasingly authoritarian, kleptocracy. As a result, the Chinese people may be willing to ride with, and ride out, economic stagnation should that come about—although this might be accompanied by increasing dismay and disgruntlement. In either case—rise or demise—there is little the United States or other countries can or should do to affect China’s economically foolish authoritarian drive except to issue declarations of disapproval and to deal more warily. As former ambassador Chas Freeman puts it, “There is no military answer to a grand strategy built on a non‐​violent expansion of commerce and navigation.” And Chinese leaders have plenty of problems to consume their attention. They scarcely need war or foreign military adventurism to enhance the mix. The problem is not so much that China is a threat but that it is deeply insecure. Policies of threat, balance, sanction, boycott, and critique are more likely to reinforce that condition than change it. The alternative is to wait, and to profit from China’s economic size to the degree possible, until someday China feels secure enough to reform itself.
  • Topic: Government, GDP, Geopolitics, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Vijay Gokhale
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: China and India struggle to comprehend each other’s international ambitions. The misperceptions that follow lead to a lack of trust, border skirmishes, and potentially worse. On June 15, 2020, Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a brawl that left twenty Indian soldiers dead while causing an unspecified number of Chinese casualties. The clash is a part of a broader border standoff along the Galwan River between the two forces on the Line of Actual Control that is yet to be resolved. The Indian strategic community is broadly in agreement that this border dispute marks an implacable decline in India-China ties. They argue that the very basis of relations that emerged after former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in 1988 has been shaken, if not destroyed. Yet, how did the two countries manage to reach this nadir in ties, and furthermore, what does the Galwan clash signify for the future of Sino-Indian relations? This paper argues that, long before the present border dispute occurred, Sino-Indian relations had been steadily declining due to rampant misperceptions of the other side, contributing to a lack of trust. The most fundamental misperception between the two countries is the inability to comprehend each other’s international ambitions, yielding the fear that their foreign policies are targeted against the other. This paper traces the impact and development of these misperceptions on Sino-Indian ties through three different phases before considering the future of the relationship after the Galwan dispute.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes, Borders
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, India, Asia
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: During the pandemic, Chinese medical and equipment supplies to Chile have come mostly from a diverse cast of Chinese players with local experience in Chile. They adapted to Chile’s unique system of emergency and disaster management. China has become a global power, but there is too little debate about how this has happened and what it means. Many argue that China exports its developmental model and imposes it on other countries. But Chinese players also extend their influence by working through local actors and institutions while adapting and assimilating local and traditional forms, norms, and practices. With a generous multiyear grant from the Ford Foundation, Carnegie has launched an innovative body of research on Chinese engagement strategies in seven regions of the world—Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, the Pacific, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Through a mix of research and strategic convening, this project explores these complex dynamics, including the ways Chinese firms are adapting to local labor laws in Latin America, Chinese banks and funds are exploring traditional Islamic financial and credit products in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and Chinese actors are helping local workers upgrade their skills in Central Asia. These adaptive Chinese strategies that accommodate and work within local realities are mostly ignored by Western policymakers in particular. Ultimately, the project aims to significantly broaden understanding and debate about China’s role in the world and to generate innovative policy ideas. These could enable local players to better channel Chinese energies to support their societies and economies; provide lessons for Western engagement around the world, especially in developing countries; help China’s own policy community learn from the diversity of Chinese experience; and potentially reduce frictions.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South America, Chile
  • Author: Chunbing Xing
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United Nations University
  • Abstract: This paper examines the evolution of China’s industrial and occupational structure in the last two decades and its impact on wage inequality. We find that non-routine cognitive and interpersonal tasks have increased, while routine cognitive tasks first increased and then declined. Occupation structural change is accompanying rising wage inequality. The wage premium for educated workers rose sharply in the 1990s and remained high thereafter. Occupations with high routine task intensity are associated with lower wages. While the return to education has become the largest contributor to wage inequality, routine task intensities have yet to play a significant role.
  • Topic: Education, Labor Issues, Employment, Inequality, Work Culture
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Lane Burdette
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: Submarine cables are critical infrastructure that carry nearly all internet traffic. However, unclear international governance does not always guarantee their protection, leaving global information networks vulnerable to sabotage and espionage. China’s access to submarine cables for strategic manipulation is greatly expanded through the Digital Silk Road and territorial claims in the South China Sea, posing a clear threat that requires a U.S. response. Current U.S. policy is uncoordinated and can be sorted into the isolationist, cooperative, competitive, and militaristic responses, which each present unique frameworks for future action. The isolationist response would disconnect the United States from insecure cable networks, limiting China’s influence over U.S. assets but reducing international connectivity. The cooperative response emphasizes international norms-setting processes to achieve multilateral agreements protecting cables from state influences. The competitive response advocates U.S. competition with China in the submarine cable market through alternate assistance programs, which would increase the redundancy of a secure network. Finally, the militaristic response explores the role of America’s military in defending submarine cables from foreign exploitation. This article recommends that future policy emphasize a combination of the competitive and militaristic responses in order to most immediately and effectively address China’s threat to information security along submarine cables while minimizing U.S. risk.
  • Topic: International Relations, Politics, Governance, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: China, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America