Officials in the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump have tried again to portray China as a threat to be addressed – just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes over the White House.
At the Milken Institute’s Asia Summit Thursday, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said one of Trump’s accomplishments over the past four years was that he had shown that there was “a big problem” with China.
“This president realized that we had a trading system that got out of hand, and that was being backed out in terms of both our goals and the realization that we need to deal with China as the fastest growing economy in China the world and a completely different system had to become, “he said during a virtual dialogue.
His comments followed those of Trade Secretary Wilbur Ross, who said at the same summit on Tuesday that China remains “the main military and economic threat” in Asia.
Lighthizer, known as a China skeptic, said China’s industrial policy has hurt the US and other economies. He reiterated frequent complaints about China’s practices such as subsidizing state-owned companies and forcing technology transfers from foreign companies to their Chinese partners.
Robert Lighthizer, U.S. sales representative, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on June 18, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
To be clear, other countries share US concerns about China. But the Trump administration has often preferred to confront Beijing unilaterally and denounce dispute settlement organizations like the World Trade Organization.
The U.S. trade agent claimed the Trump administration worked with allies. He said he was part of a US, European and Japanese trilateral group that had met several times over the past four years to discuss issues such as WTO trade rules. But the US cannot allow allies to “reject” decisions regarding US national security, he added.
The US under Trump has often imposed punitive measures on China for national security reasons. These guidelines include increasing trade tariffs and restricting Chinese companies’ access to major American suppliers.
Many experts disagree with how Trump has tried to allay concerns about China.
Biden has also tried to differentiate his approach from Trump’s. The President-elect has announced that he will work with allies in Europe and Asia to develop a “coherent strategy” for China.