Subscribe for 33¢ / day

There’s already a trade war, and it’s being waged by Beijing.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

China’s ascension to the World Trade Organization nearly 20 years ago has failed in its large-scale strategic objectives. It hasn’t created a liberalizing regime or a free-market economy in China; in fact, it hasn’t even created a China ready and willing to abide by the norms of free trade.

The regime of Xi Jinping hasn’t been pushed toward democratic reforms by a rising middle class. China still champions state-led, rather than market-led, capitalism. And it takes advantage of the WTO, using nontariff barriers and industrial policy, to push mercantilist policies.

President Donald Trump’s prospective tariffs on steel and aluminum have put renewed focus on China trade, although the tariffs are a comically inept misfire if their true target is China. The rubric for the levies could be: “How to lose a trade war with China in one easy step.”

The tariffs don’t really affect China, from which we import only about 3 percent of our steel. Meanwhile, they send the message that the U.S. government is lurching toward protectionism, and alienate our allies. They run exactly counter to what would be a sound approach to Chinese mercantilism, as a compelling report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation underscores.

The report argues that there are two ways to wave the white flag on China trade — one, favored by the Washington establishment, is to accept Chinese cheating as the way of the world; the other, perhaps favored by Trump, is to adopt a mercantilism of our own. Both would concede to the Chinese an outsize role in forging new, less desirable rules of the road in the global trading system and poorly serve America’s interests.

A better approach begins with acknowledging that China is a unique problem. For all of Trump’s complaints, Mexico isn’t pursuing a well-honed strategic agenda of exploiting the global trade system at the same time it undertakes an aggressive neoimperialist foreign policy. Only China is doing that.

China isn’t the first developing country to adopt a policy of maximizing exports. What makes it different is its sheer ambition and its size, which gives it leverage over foreign companies and considerable international influence.

What’s the harm to the U.S.? Yes, technology accounts for a large share of job losses in manufacturing in recent decades. Yes, lower-end manufacturing would have left our shores regardless. But there is no doubt that China’s practices have harmed the U.S. manufacturing sector, and that Beijing works to block higher-value-added exports from the U.S. and is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to dominate in advanced industries.

By no means should we emulate China. We should continue to pursue free trade as a policy, not as a theology that prevents us from acknowledging that there is such a thing as unfair trade.

The ITIF report urges using the global free-trade regime against China. That means bringing more actions against China in the WTO and working to update the rules to capture Chinese cheating. It means joining, and influencing, a multilateral agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It means forging bilateral agreements with up-to-date standards that reinforce principles that China undermines.

We obviously can’t do this alone. We’d have to lead an alliance of international partners to pressure China on specific practices, with tailored consequences if we get nowhere.

Such a broad-based effort to crack China’s mercantilism wouldn’t be protectionist, but the opposite. There is obviously no chance of doing this, though, if we are engaged in an absurd cycle of tit-for-tat tariffs with the likes of the EU.

Trump can have emotionally satisfying tariffs to scratch his protectionist itch, or he can have a strategy to muster an alliance of truly free-trade partners to pressure China. He can’t have both — and you can be sure China knows which option it prefers.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail:


(9) comments


Mr. Lowry is the man who trashes anybody who is not a conservative who dislikes Trump and what he is doing. But Trump doesn't need enemies when he has a close ally like Lowry, who writes some of the most damning anti-Trump material anywhere, including his concluding paragraph here:

"Trump can have emotionally satisfying tariffs to scratch his protectionist itch, or he can have a strategy to muster an alliance of truly free-trade partners to pressure China. He can’t have both — and you can be sure China knows which option it prefers."

As for the Trumps championing the working stiffs, I see Ivanka is now shifting her clothing manufacturing base out of China, where wages are rising to the hundreds of dollars a month, to Ethiopia, where people will work for $30 a month. What will all workers everywhere do when robotics come in to work essentially for nothing a month beyond routine maintenance costs?


Oldhomey you never got around to reading District of Columbia v. Heller so let me tell you how the Supreme Court resolved the semantic argument and decided what was meant and what was intended. Held:
1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.

(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.

(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.

(c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment . Pp. 28–30.

(d) The Second Amendment ’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30–32.

(e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court’s conclusion. Pp. 32–47.

(f) None of the Court’s precedents forecloses the Court’s interpretation. Neither United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542 , nor Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252 , refutes the individual-rights interpretation. United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 , does not limit the right to keep and bear arms to militia purposes, but rather limits the type of weapon to which the right applies to those used by the militia, i.e., those in common use for lawful purposes. Pp. 47–54.

2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56.

3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment . The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition—in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute—would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional. Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is permissible if it is not enforced arbitrarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not address the licensing requirement. Assuming he is not disqualified from exercising Second Amendment rights, the District must permit Heller to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home


I am not sure how it is that you want to resurrect the 2d Amendment into comments on a Rich Lowry column on Trump's hare-brained tariff plans, geo. But since you do, what you posted "comports" with my opinion that you rely on NRA propaganda sites for your detailed background information. Still, much of what it says falls in line with my feeling that Americans certainly have a right to own hunting weapons and handguns for home and business security. I notice it agrees that the 2d Amendment rights aren't limitless, that there can be laws limiting the types of weapons people own. How does that "comport" with you?


Remember when you wrote " The most interesting reading, however, has been a couple of rare pieces I have seen recently on the history of the NRA and how the extreme right took it over in 1977, boosting the interests of gun manufacturers and retailers by falsely turning the 2d Amendment into a gun-rights document rather than what the framers of the Constitution intended, a guide to the regulation of state militias, which would evolve into our National Guard system"? I just wanted you to know that when the Supreme Court held that " The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home", that the Supreme Court turned the 2nd Amendment into a guns right document. It was not the NRA as you read in that couple of rare pieces pieces. Also , your "rare pieces" should be condemned to the trash pile if they suggested the 2nd Amendment was intended as "a guide to the regulation of state militias, which would evolve into our National Guard system".


One man's trash is another man's treasure, as the saying goes, and the evidence is that the NRA trashed the actual meaning of the 2d Amendment in order to gin up gun sales for the gun industry. How is your comporting going with the idea that society, indeed, has the Constitutional right to limit the kinds of weapons that can be owned by private citizens? Is there anything else from this Rich Lowry column that you want to discuss?




Will Trump forswear China and start producing his clothing line in the US? I'm guessing the answer is no. Likewise, his kids will not insist on having their products made here. They can make a heftier profit by relying on cheap labor in China and elsewhere.


exactly. The real reason why China is a world leading exporter is because multi national corporations want it that way. With their cheap labor and lax environmental laws, corporations can maximize profits. Look at Walmart, largest employer in the U.S. If it wasn't for third world countries like China they would not exist. Time to put the blame for China's success squarely where it belongs, on Global corporations bent solely on making huge profits at the expense of cheap labor.


And Walmart doubles down by killing local small businesses that provided middle class jobs and replacing them with slave wages that are subsidized by taxpayers who have to foot the bill for welfare and health care.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thanks for reading. Subscribe or log in to continue.