A Trade War? ‘The Battle of ‘Washing Machines’

 us china trade war

Dubbed as the Trade War, it has less to do with war, but more to do with global race for increasing consumerism and protectionism.  Since 9/11, and since the elusive term— ‘the War on Terrorism’ dominated global affairs, this word ‘war’ lost its brutal connotations. War on Drugs, on Opioid, Healthcare War, and War on Immigration…etc. are seeping into everyday use creating a fata-morgana consciousness wherein there is no questions about the substance, but entrenched use of increasing violence.  This renders the concept of war and conflict, even concepts of violence, hate crime as part of the everyday life.  The death toll of the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War and its proxy Wars, in particular the Vietnam War, could be, at least, a reason to refrain from using this word honouring the ‘relative’ peace that emerged after those wars.  The current trade competition between the US and China is dubbed as war, where in effect, there are more pressing issues in global affairs that are far more related to war(s) than thetrade dispute with China.

9/11 attacks, while did not defeat the United States in military or any other related terms, they punctured what Noam Chomsky called the ‘Security of State Power’.America is placed within its own response to the attacks, which generated more anxiety, more terror, and more fear. This war on terror created ‘everyday war’ in American’s everyday life. The rhetoric of war influences the way Americans view the world: it is continually a dangerous place. The Americans reverse backs to those days when they went to bed and shut the windows fearing that the communists may jump in anytime.  The windows soon were locked well fearing the Muslim terrorist might jump in, not only in the night time, but at any-time.  This has shifted in early 2018, when the United States’ new strategy, designated China and Russia as the new threat.

In the early 1990s, with the advent of the new global order, China bashing was meant to highlight political and ideological differences, which were remnants of the Cold War. Yet, in recent American elections campaigns, China bashing became a necessity, wherein America’s own standing in the world is viewed in how much threat America faces. Both parties’ candidates would demonstrate their willingness to defend the nation by alluding to the direct threat(s) from China.  Bashing China departed from being related to politics or economics, it has become an American discursive historical need to have an enemy. If the Trump administration does not have an enemy, it creates one.  Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, says that “America exists today to make war. How else do we interpret 19 straight years of war and no end in sight? It is part of who we are. It is part of what the American Empire is,” (Interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, January 13, 2020).

Yet, China, in its entire long history, does not have a record of attacking, manipulating, or aggressively dominating other countries.  Dubbing the trade dispute as War proposes putting China in a ‘warring’ environment, which in effect plays into the hostile attitude towards China.  In the ensuing debate about China peaceful Rise, there are persistent voices to highlight and support with evidence China’s non-aggressive history.  By calling it ‘Trade War’, it is imperative that there is a combative nature to the debate, which in turn calls for more voices to justify China’s peaceful intentions and peaceful rise.  From an American perspective, possibly, the concept of ‘war’ serves two fronts: the first is that it presents Donald Trump as a guardian of the national interest, this is strictly part of the War on Terror rhetoric, and second, it intends to put China in a defensive position.

Yet, there is perhaps a good news to all this which is that Trump is the man in charge of this Trade War.  Those world wars that took the lives of tens of millions were fought for ideas and ideologies, and they were fought for human grievances, for justice and more… The era of Trump is a ‘no more’ fight for trade balance, which the Chinese, reflecting their very nature of non-aggression, handled very well. Trump continuously pitching American ‘beautiful’ weapons. From this perspective, it is rather easy to understand that all what needs to be done is to buy from Donald Trump— anything. There is no Trade War, there are no trade battles, or perhaps, ironically, could we ask: yes, there is a ‘Trade War’ which started with the battle of the ‘Washing Machines’?

Nath Aldalala’a, Professor of International Relations, American University in the Emirates, United Arab Emirates.




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