“Is there such a thing as a private company in China? I’m not sure there is.” Those are the words of GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher, who is heading up a new House committee that the Wall Street Journal reports is “charged with alerting Americans to the perils of a rising China.”
The view here is that Gallagher doth protest too much. Indeed, as a good conservative and Republican Gallagher has to know the country is full of private businesses based on what a major market China is for American plenty. Readers of this column are by now familiar with these statistics, but it bears repeating that the world’s most valuable company (Apple) sells a fifth of its iPhones in China, that Tesla sells 40% of its cars in China, that GM sells more cars in China than it does in North America, that Starbucks has over 4,000 stores in China on the way to thousands more, that China is presently the second largest market for McDonald’s, Nike and many, many more U.S. blue chips.
Yet Gallagher wonders? More realistically, he knows. If the government or the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) owned or controlled China’s businesses, then it’s safe to say that the very best and most valuable of U.S. companies wouldn’t be devoting anywhere close to the resources to the Chinese market that they presently do.
From there, we know Gallagher doth protest too much by virtue of the words that follow those that begin this column. Gallagher went on to tell the Journal that “This is what makes the ‘new Cold War’ so much more complicated than the old Cold War. We never had to decouple from the Soviet Union.” Of course, left out by Gallagher was why it wasn’t necessary to “decouple” from the Soviet Union: it realistically had no private sector to 'decouple' from. Evidence once again that China does is alluded to by Gallagher himself: the very close and very remunerative production ties between U.S. and Chinese businesses. Amen to that. Think about it.
The profit motivated people in the U.S. and China work together, and they do so very successfully. Apple yet again is the world’s most valuable company, but it quite simply would not be absent immense cooperation on the production front with commercial entities in China. Translated for those who need it, the U.S. is a much more prosperous country precisely because of the relentless growth of private, profit-motivated businesses in China. And a safer one too. Do you generally shoot at your best customers?
The above truths and questions are things to think about in concert with a growing view inside the U.S. political class that China’s economic rise represents a threat. Quite the opposite if thought about carefully. That’s the case because when people work together they get to specialize, and when they specialize they’re much more productive. In other words, commercial cooperation between the American and Chinese people boosts prosperity in both countries. Politicians seem to want war between the U.S. and China just as businesses and people in both countries continue to pursue the opposite of war. Trade is about improving one’s trading partner, which means the U.S. and China strengthen each other the more that they trade with each other. Do you want to war with those who, thanks to close "coupled" economic ties, are strengthened by same?
Which brings us to TikTok. Americans would be wise to stop and think about the growing view inside the U.S. political class that businesses like it threaten the U.S. as agents of the CCP. On its face it’s hard to take such a view seriously. Figure that TikTok is valued at how many tens or hundreds of billions? That it is reads as a rather inconvenient truth for Gallagher and others who want a ban, or at least a forced sale. First of all, why? Why do Americans always have to lose their freedom anytime politicians detect what they deem a threat?
From there, think again about TikTok’s immense valuation. That it became so valuable in a social media space populated by American giants like Facebook, Twitter, and SnapChat is a loud indication that as opposed to being an arm of government where nothing innovative ever happens, TikTok is a remarkable entrepreneurial achievement. Conservatives know this truth intimately. It explains their valiant and correct efforts over the years to keep government out of healthcare and other sectors. Whatever politicians touch they weaken, break, destroy, or all three, yet we’re supposed to believe these truths don’t apply to Chinese companies? Put another way, the surest sign that TikTok is NOT an agent of government has to do with how many Americans love it.
To which political types say the CCP will force TikTok to do its bidding as a propaganda arm. Of course, if TikTok were deformed by CCP force it would no longer be TikTok, and as such it would no longer be so popular in the first place. From there, we Americans know better. We know how lame communist propaganda was in the old Soviet Union, and we know lame it is from China now. We know this given the passionate love affair that the Chinese people are having with American goods and services, we know it from how a growing number of Chinese nationals pursue education stateside, plus we know from the 20th century that despite efforts in communist countries to demonize the U.S., the people in those countries were desperate to get to the United States.
Which means we needn’t worry. If Chinese companies are private as economic growth over there attests, we can only gain from ongoing economic progress in China. On the other hand, If the communists are in control of business and life, we can rest assured that China’s prosperity will vanish as is always the case when the State replaces the private sector. If the latter, the propaganda that worries Gallagher et al won’t matter one bit. Yes, communism is the worst advertisement of all for communism. See the 20th century if you’re doubtful.