Framing China for “Grabbing
Jobs” Is Purely Political
By Wen Jia
The U.S. presidential election is over, but stigmatizing China has already become the norm in the area of trade.
Translated By Stefanie Zhou
11 December 2012
Edited by Rachel Smith
China - Huanqiu - Original Article (Chinese)
At the opening of this semester, I accepted a teaching task, arranged by the foreign affairs department, to give lectures to exchange students from the United States. These students left a deep impression on me. Once during a chat with them, one student asked me bluntly, “What effect do you think China has had on the high unemployment in the United States?”
I was not surprised at his thought at all. I explained the content of the popular opinion in the U.S. presidential election that China is “grabbing jobs” and then asked him if he thinks that Chinese people snatched jobs from Americans. I do not want to blame this student. His misunderstanding is largely due to the dazzling election campaign propaganda and some politicians who have stigmatized China unsparingly on the issue of trade for a long time.
Even American scholars have bought into the stigma movement centered on the opinion of “grabbing jobs.” In October of this year, I had the honor to participate in a seminar held by the American Legacy Foundation. The foundation, a well-known conservative and pro-Republican think tank, seemed to be helping Romney. However, in this seminar - which focused on imports, employment and economics - Terry Miller, who once served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, criticized Romney’s statement about suppressing China in his opening remarks.
If experts such as Miller and Romney share core values, why do their perspectives vary dramatically? The key is that the former had no election pressure when faced with policymakers and academics, whereas the latter was using "sweatshops" and the idea of China “grabbing jobs” to win over voters.
The U.S. presidential election is over, but stigmatizing China has already become the norm in the area of trade. While skillfully brandishing the big sticks of "anti-subsidy" and "anti-dumping," Americans have also begun to more frequently use different labels to stigmatize Chinese enterprises and markets to lead U.S. consumers away from Chinese goods. To convince the public, some politicians and media are constantly claiming that China is implicitly encouraging the existence of sweatshops to steal American jobs. However, they chose to ignore the role of the U.S. businesses in the so-called sweatshops and the salary increase of Chinese labor in recent years. Taobao, a popular site with Chinese consumers, was also labeled a “market of notoriety” for sales of copyright-infringing and pirated products via the Internet, while a blind eye was turned to the proliferation of domestic online shopping platforms flooded with pirated e-books in the United States.
After analyzing a large number of facts in class, the student who asked me the question not only no longer adheres to the view of "grabbing jobs,” but used the refuting argument as his thesis topic for the course. Clearly, to respond to lies, besides taking full advantage of bilateral and multilateral trade frameworks, we should also choose a more appropriate way to convince American consumers. As more Americans get to understand the truth of the matter, the view of "grabbing jobs” will naturally lose its sway in the United States and will cease to be a political weapon.
The author is an associate professor of the School of Economics at Sichuan University.
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