The Mixed Messages of Sino-US Relations Are Impossible To Unravel

*Editor’s note: This article was originally published a month ago, but the editors feel that the author’s opinion remains relevant.

In a recent conversation with reporters, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China for stealing American intellectual property, claiming that this IP is worth “hundreds of billions of dollars” and that these actions are “not consistent with being a superpower or a leader in the world.” He went on to state that the U.S. is pursuing a “multi-pronged effort… to convince China to behave like a normal nation on commerce.”

In an age in which media outlets must verify the numbers, Secretary of State Pompeo’s thoughtless assertion that China has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American intellectual property prompts us to ask: Where did these numbers come from? Can the serious implications of his statements at the very least be verified with a simple search on the internet?

In 2017, China paid foreign intellectual property fees of $28.6 billion, and of those expenses, fees paid to the U.S. increased by 14 percent compared to the previous year. Is that what an “international intellectual property thief” looks like?

The majority of America’s most competitively advantageous intellectual property is in the hands of large corporations that work together with China. Those companies all maintain positive and fruitful business relationships with China; they aren’t complaining about any Chinese encroachment on their intellectual property rights. When it comes to their ongoing requirements from China, they have been maintaining effective communication with their Chinese counterparts. Nevertheless, the U.S. government feels that America will soon be stolen by China. Isn’t the country they’re leading the same America that’s home to Boeing, Apple, GM, Microsoft and Intel?

We ourselves have been the victims of theft. The cause of our slowed development over the last few years is that others have been unceasingly stealing from us. When today’s American political elite speaks to its people in this way, it incites them to become resentful of emerging economies. At the same time, the American government is preparing to deprive newborns of automatic citizenship and is busy keeping Mexican refugees from entering the country. America is investing more and more energy into protecting its own vested interests. This is a strange and unfamiliar version of America.

It seems as though the U.S. government wants to redefine what IP rights are and what it means to steal intellectual property, as if it is only by continually raising these standards that America’s rich and powerful can stay safe. It must be said: The American government is leading its country on a goose chase wilder than any before in history.

Today, America is incessantly seizing “Chinese spies,” and the charges are always theft of American technology – it appears as if America is “cracking down.” Intuitively, we know this is a huge exaggeration. We don’t know how many factors are at play when it comes to America’s trade war with China. Many of these factors stem from increased pressure against China and the heating up of this topic. We also don’t know how much of this is the result of America’s obsessive imagination and faith in its own fantasy.

We have noticed that U.S. officials have recently made a lot of statements about China, and the tone of these statements is often inconsistent. It smells a bit like they’re using both the carrot and the stick. Our overall feeling is that America is very worried and wants to resolve things with China as quickly as possible.

However, America appears to be overly convinced of the effectiveness of pressure. China has made many fewer statements than the U.S., and many of the statements that China has made have been in response to American statements. China’s overall attitude is a lot lower-key than America’s. But this has no connection to the likelihood of China conceding to U.S. requests in response to American pressure. China has no desire to actively incite conflict between the two countries, but on matters of principle, we can be very persistent, and as a result we will often “spare no expense” in maintaining our positions. The U.S. absolutely must not misinterpret or miscalculate.

On Thursday night, Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump. This was the first communication between the two leaders since May 8 of this year, and both sides were relatively positive in their statements to the media regarding the phone call. This brought a glimmer of hope back to the situation.

Nevertheless, if the U.S. intends to end the trade war or to reduce its intensity, its desire to achieve a win-win result will be absolutely unattainable. Chinese society wants to end the trade war, but we are totally prepared to delay de-escalation or even further escalate the trade war in response to U.S. actions. We are eagerly awaiting a show of good faith from Washington.

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