Donald Trump has been insisting for years that our country has been too economically dependent on China, so it is sad that it took a global public health crisis to prove he was right all this time. When he began imposing strategic tariffs on China in response to its long history of abusive trade practices, the liberals all of a sudden became free trade fundamentalists, predicting that this new “trade war” would harm the American economy because we have relied so heavily on cheap Chinese imports for so many years. Instead, it was the Chinese economy that took a hard hit, while our economy at home surged to its strongest performance in half a century.
What happened? The answer is simple. Just as manufacturers had once moved their factories to China to take advantage of cheap labor, weak regulations, and lower tariffs on exports to developed economies, these companies are now fleeing China for other countries that offer similar business advantages without all of the political baggage from Beijing.
The coronavirus outbreak around the world could dramatically accelerate the manufacturing exodus from China, as companies begin to recognize the perils of giving the authoritarian country so much power over their supply chains. After Beijing placed hundreds of millions of its citizens under an oppressive quarantine, effectively shutting down most of its economy for weeks, the need to diversify production locations should have become abundantly clear to business leaders around the world.
Businesses that followed the lead of the president, however, were already ahead of the curve. The executives understood those artificial advantages that China always utilized to prop up its economy were going to disappear under the pressure of his tariffs, and the steps they took in anticipation of that, such as relocating production to other countries, ultimately reduced their exposure to the coronavirus crisis and its damaging consequences.
The reason for disengaging from China in the first place was to protect American workers and businesses. While the coronavirus could not have been predicted, there is always a significant risk from overdependence on any single country, especially an authoritarian one that will routinely break the rules in its quest to get ahead. The coronavirus merely happened to be the crisis that demonstrated once and for all why the “free trade” status quo that was rooted in past decades was so dangerous to our country.
Incidentally, the coronavirus also validates the border security agenda of the president. Closing the country off to travelers from areas affected by the outbreak is one of the most effective steps that we can take to limit its spread within our country, and Trump wasted no time in implementing that safeguard. He was roundly criticized by the left, which was primarily concerned about the possibility that restricting travel from China could promote bias against Asians, but at this point pretty much everyone can agree on the importance of knowing whether people entering the United States from overseas might pose a security threat to American citizens.
That sounds an awful lot like the argument that Trump makes about the need to secure our borders against rampant illegal immigration. We need to know who is coming into our country so we can keep dangerous people out of our communities. The president of course had no idea or advance knowledge of the coronavirus. Trump just has a well crafted policy agenda that is equally well suited to protecting our country from the coronavirus as it is to creating a strong and growing economy that generates lasting and broad prosperity that reaches all American individuals and families.
By Madison Gesiotto