Public opinion and "elite" opinion differ widely when it comes to addressing China's cheating

Posted by scapozzola on 09/20/2012

Let's look at some simple stats...

U.S. manufacturing employment in January 2000: 17,292,000

U.S. manufacturing employment in January 2012: 11,860,000

Annual U.S. trade deficit with China in 2000: $83.8 billion

Annual U.S. trade deficit with China in 2011: $295.4 billion

What do we see from this:

  • A trade deficit with China that has climbed by more than $200 billion in the last decade.
  • A manufacturing sector that has lost more than 5 million jobs in a dozen years.

The conclusion seems fairly obvious: At the same time that the trade deficit with China has increased, the U.S. has lost millions of manufacturing jobs.

A poll released in July by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) found that an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters are greatly concerned by this loss of manufacturing, and they want to see Washington get tough on China.

This would seem fairly logical, given such massive job loss in the manufacturing sector as well as the skyrocketing trade deficit with China.

However, a different poll conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that America's "experts" have a very different view than the general public.  Apparently, scholars and the news media are far less likely to worry about Beijing's burgeoning economic power and U.S. jobs lost to China.

The disparity in views between the general public and elite opinion makers is extremely troubling, especially when one considers that these same elites have been consistently wrong on China, dating back to 2000.  Essentially, the argument at that time in favor of opening trade with China was that Beijing would soon liberalize its markets.  Increased commerce would bring a wave of new jobs and greater democracy to the Chinese people.  Simultaneously, this new prosperity would help open the Chinese market to more U.S. exports.

Sadly, the exact opposite has happened.  Political repression, especially in Tibet, has continued apace.  China continues to maintain closed markets while deliberately undervaluing its currency.  And U.S. manufacturers have continued to lose market share.

In fact, a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that the growing U.S. trade deficit with China cost more than 2.7 million American jobs between 2001 and 2011, with job losses in every state.

It's amazing, then, that the so-called elite opinionmakers in the U.S. have been so completely, brazenly wrong when it comes to the core issues affecting the nation's economy.  Hopefully, the prevailing view of the American people will start to win out, as the "China issue" takes center stage during this year's election season.

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