china Economy Foreign Policy Ralph Nader

US China Policy: A Perilous Arms Race Instead of Waging Critical Cooperation

Tia Dufour, White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Ralph Nader

Did the Biden officials know what they were doing when they announced a broad expansion of export controls on China? China is the world’s second-largest economy, which is intricately intertwined with the economy of the U.S. and other nations. This is mainly due to U.S. multinational companies exporting huge slices of our manufacturing economy to China for its cheap labor.

What is the White House and the Department of Commerce thinking? China is not Venezuela nor is it Russia, a weak and dependent economy with a GDP smaller than Italy. Do these brazen Bidenites realize the consequences of a grand list of technologies and knowhow being barred from China?

As the dominant imperial world power, the U.S. is struggling to understand how to deal with an aggressive rising power like China building spheres of influence around the world through exports, loans, development contracts, and technical assistance. It’s okay that we have military bases in over 100 countries whose leaders know the U.S. as the premier overthrower of elected governments with policies displeasing to Washington and Wall Street.

As a result, the Bidenites are unleashing export controls, arrived at through administrative secrecy, that will surely invite black markets, high-tech smuggling, and retaliation to make these controls a nightmare to enforce.

Provoking China to play its own cards is not smart. China, thanks to the greed of coddled and subsidized U.S. drug companies, produce much of our pharmaceuticals. These companies have left America, for example, with no production domestically of antibiotics – certainly a national security priority!

China possesses “rare earth” minerals and produces technology crucial to our own defense and high-tech industries. Its government allows U.S. factories to be built in China on the condition of a flow of latest “technology transfers.” Ask General Motors.

How are export controls – based on asserted national security grounds – going to work, other than to accelerate a new arms race? “We need to retain technological overmatch” declared Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, adding that export controls “are at the red hot center of how we best protect our democracies.” Tell that to the mass victims of the next round of viruses from China due to our minuscule weak public health programs and early detection systems, while we spend more than 2 ½ times as much as China on our military budget having had a huge head start in past years.

The New York Times reports that U.S. officials also don’t like China’s deep surveillance of its people. It is as if surveillance capitalism (See, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Professor Shoshana Zuboff) and the NSA’s dragnet violations of the 4th amendment are chump change.

China is already in the front ranks of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and quantum computing. To declare a cold war on China’s access to technology, as a Commerce Department official said, “that advance the country’s scientific advancement” including on foreign companies that use some U.S. products, is ludicrous. Aren’t they aware of the traditional open exchange between scientists all over the world, not to mention China’s own allies or collaborators in this regard?

What is also well known, but not uppermost in people’s minds, is that China, Russia, and the U.S. have embedded malware in each other’s cyber worlds that if triggered could cause catastrophe. The concern about China’s tens of billions of dollars invested in U.S. Treasury bonds should also be an issue for Mr. Biden.

Another calculation underweighted is the quiet opposition to export controls by U.S. companies that salivate over the present and future profits with Chinese trade – Apple CEO Tim Cook (who, by the way, makes $833 a minute on a 40-hour week) got a special waiver treatment from Trump, continued by Biden, for importing tens of billions of dollars annually of iPhones and computers from its Chinese contractors without tariffs.

This is another way of noting that export controls invite both raw corruption and special lobbying for waivers. They were tried by the U.S. against the old USSR, which developed elaborate circumventions.

So here we go again. Of course, certain lethal products need to be embargoed by all countries protective of their people. The U.S is expanding its so-called “entity list” cutting off hundreds of foreign companies and groups from certain U.S. technologies unless U.S. suppliers get licenses to sell goods to them. Don’t these government officials know that blacklisted companies can mutate through other corporations chartered in tax havens or dictatorships abroad?

U.S. belligerence will be met with more Chinese belligerence and vice versa as the perils and risk increase.

William Hartung (See, Center for International Policy) points out – a far brighter future would come from intense U.S. and China cooperation on the climate crises, averting pandemics, ocean preservation, and international arms accords including cybersecurity. Wage peace and pursue mutual self-interest as if our children and grandchildren matter.

Where is our Department of Peace, once advanced by Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), when we need it?

Relations between major nations are shaped by momentum in one direction or another. Both U.S. political parties have chosen a militant path without an exit strategy – one that must please Lockheed Martin and the rest of the military-industrial complex.

The forces for muscular peace and cooperation must show there is an alternative path to secure the common interests of the two nations. That’s called robust diplomacy in this era of recurring pandemics, expanding ransomware, bloated military budgets, and interconnected economies.

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.


  1. China holds over a trillion dollars in US government debt. One has to wonder if the US would ever try to restrict access to that like they are doing with Russia.

    My concern is that China will respond to our cut offs in Western technology by developing it for themselves, as they did with the microprocessors for super-computing. By creating the necessity, we push them to become independent and they are capable of doing it.

  2. The stupidities committed by The Indispensable Nation” just keep multiplying. It appears that there are no adults in “our” government. The decisions are apparently being made by the neocons who infest the State Department and a President who cares only about his personal interests. The opposition party is no help. To whom does not appeal for reason? Nancy Pelosi? Mitch McConnell? The Pentagon and its arms industry owners? Thanks to the brilliance of the Reagan Administration and every successive administration, almost all of our manufacturing capacity has been shipped to china and other low wage countries, rendering us unable to compete economically with China. What is counted as GDP is largely hocus pocus inflated asset values of real estate, stocks and bonds. Other than arms manufacturing, there is little capacity remaining of industrial capacity. As the article points out, the sensible course of action is to cooperate with China and other countries and resolve difficulties diplomatically. The US refuses to do so. The only course of action seen by the fools in Washington, DC is war and the threat of war – war of every kind, economic, political, military. The State Department is a bad joke. The script of its neocon members (who do not deserve the title of diplomat) is simple – follow US orders or we will destroy you. The real concern, as Nader points out, is whether these fools know enough to stop end their hostility short of starting a nuclear war. I have no confidence that that is the case.

    1. I second the motion, Jim. The frightening thing about all of this is that the public has no say about this runaway train.


    Ah yes. “The Best and the Brightest” 2.0; the current incarnation of the Ivy D mob seems not to have read David Halberstam. Or Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly.”

    Politically and economically short-sighted, yet so certain they deserve to rule that they never look outside of their own reality tunnels. Both Ds and Rs are hypnotized by the image of American exceptionalism and unipolar power. A projection of their own sense of superiority mirrored back to them. They refuse to look at the horrific damage their unemotional, abstract polices do to ecosystems and human communities.

    Of course they don’t see what BRICS portends. Or that an economy based on making arms and serving as mercenaries is not exactly healthy. Consider that Russia has agreed to trade with countries in their own currencies or in rubles. Or China’s BRI. Countries that are thinking about a workable future.

    Europeans know that in a real WMD war, they aren’t likely to survive. They also know US econ domination isn’t likely to last much longer. Since US leadership is so narcissistic, a clever strategy would be to seem obsequious, telling US powers how great they are. If the US remains economically strong, fine–west/central Europe is on the “right” side. If the BRICS alliance breaks the $ monopoly, the Europeans can easily shift. They need Russian and Chinese resources and they must be considering options.

  4. Not sure the writer understands macroeconomics:

    “…nor is it Russia, a weak and dependent economy with a GDP smaller than Italy”.

    GDP is a false measure when comparing very different economies. PP is more relevant. US/UK are financialised economies where government debt is include in GDP. Russia is resource based, has little debt and the largest land area in the world. Reality will dawn as the virtual wealth of the West evaporates. Eurasia will rise in economic and political power.

    “China’s tens of billions of dollars invested in U.S. Treasury bonds”

    $3trillion is the correct figure and it is rapidly falling as China sells down its US Bonds having been shocked by the freezing of $300bln Russia’s holdings. China saved the world in 2008/9 with massive funding – not this time.

    Welcome to the new multi-polar world.

  5. “Both U.S. political parties have chosen a militant path without an exit strategy ”

    As if we do not have other choices – we do and have had for decades, but our failure to make them has resulted in the mess we are in now …

    Ralph, at one time you were a candidate for one of those other choices, what happened? Why? leaving us at the mercy of “both” those parties you decry …

  6. The growing rivalry between the Washington and Beijing reveals that nations have still not learned how to avoid world war. Events are moving in that direction even though everyone knows it is impossible to fight global war, and has been since the birth of the atomic age. Chillingly, history shows that all empires eventually get the war they are trying to avoid. In that they should see their common interest, before it is too late.

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