19 August 2017   Leave a comment

The US has initiated an investigation into Chinese trade practices using Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.  The move is significant because that section has rarely been used since the World Trade Organization was created in 1995 and most trade disputes now are handled through that organization.  Section 301 bypasses the WTO and allows the US to unilaterally impose sanctions if trade violations are determined.  THe investigation will be on Chinese protections of international property rights, a very contentious issue in US-Chinese trade.  Almost certainly the Chinese will respond and we may be witnessing the opening of a trade war.  Such a war would be truly unfortunate since the US benefits tremendously from trade with China.

china imports to the us

Cambridge University Press has removed Chinese access to certain articles from its prestigious journal, China Quarterly, at the request of the Chinese government.  Articles that deal with materials the Chinese government regards as sensitive, such as references to the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, are no longer available to Chinese citizens.  In addition, the press has blocked access to many books.  The moves come in response to Chinese President Xi’s decision that all media in China must be consistent with the doctrines of the Communist Party.  The decision reflects the determination to resist the freedoms necessary for a liberal society.

Stephen Metcalf has written an essay on the meaning of the word “neoliberalism”.  We see the word everywhere and it is used as a pejorative as well as an indisputable truth.  Metcalf’s short definition is borrowed from the IMF and he takes to to describe policies that mandate deregulation, opening national markets to trade and capital, and for governments to shrink themselves via austerity or privatization.  It is, according to Metcalf, an ideology that holds “that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.”  My favorite passage in the essay is his description of Adam Smith, who would absolutely shudder in disgust at how market capitalism has been perverted by “free market” advocates (“Who is John Galt?”):

Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” had already given us the modern conception of the market: as an autonomous sphere of human activity and therefore, potentially, a valid object of scientific knowledge. But Smith was, until the end of his life, an 18th-century moralist. He thought the market could be justified only in light of individual virtue, and he was anxious that a society governed by nothing but transactional self-interest was no society at all. Neoliberalism is Adam Smith without the anxiety.”

I highly recommend the essay for those who wish to understand more about this ideology.

Posted August 19, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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