Donald Trump’s all-out trade war on China is a popular ploy to attract wide spread support across the American political spectrum. What’s not to like about blaming someone else for some of the ails of your country?
There’s no doubt China doesn’t compete fairly and restricts access to its markets more so than most other major economies. There’s also little question China steals trade secrets.
China’s political leaders monitor, censor and attempt to control all manner of communication both within its borders and increasingly shape global communication and those of its competitors – like Americans.
Up until recently, China was an assembler of American ingenuity and in many respects it still is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a global economic force and increasingly a number of Chinese companies are global powerhouses of this digital age.
Popular social media apps like TikTok are being downloaded around the world because they are engaging a generation glued to their phones.
Facebook can rightly complain that Americans can down load TikTok while China disallows Facebook. But political sympathy for Mark Zuckerberg and his crew is a scarce commodity these days.
Trump has said he is going to ban TikTok. Forget about the legality of the act and dismiss the outrageous extortion threats he stipulated when he attempted to drive the sale of TikTok to Microsoft on the cheap and have the US government paid a fee for its services.
Alarm bells went off in the business community when Trump, feeling empowered and on a roll about how much money he was going to earn from confiscating assets, decided to up his game and ban WeChat, although US companies can still use the app in China. (A WeChat users group in the US has sued the Trump administration to overturn the executive order.)
WeChat, often described as the “app for everything” and a “super app”, is Amazon, Facebook, Google and JP Morgan combined. It’s a powerhouse of unimaginable integration into China’s everyday life with 1.2 billion users worldwide.
WeChat is the third most widely used app globally after WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. If Trump outlaws WeChat expect serious problems for American companies.
It could be a devastating blow for US technology, retail, gaming and entertainment, and telecommunications companies.
If WeChat is banned then Apple iPhones become useless in China. Poof goes 25% of Apple’s market. In retaliation China may kick Apple out of China. Poof goes Apple’s manufacturing base.
What happens to the 9,000 Starbucks stores in China? McDonald’s? What about Disney? Its theme parks cost billions to construct there. Would Disney be allowed to continue to operate? Even if allowed to continue, how do these companies operate if WeChat can’t be used to pay for their services?
If WeChat is banned how does Target, Walmart, Best Buy etc. talk to its Chinese customers and suppliers?
WeChat is the mode of communication and payment for pretty much everything in China. As the president of the US-China Business Council said “WeChat is a little bit like electricity. You use it everywhere”.
The whole US-China trade war situation is a mess and now the delicate task of dismantling what Trump says and what should be done is underway. The lawyers are having a field day. The cost of doing business and the uncertainty keeps rising.
The Trump administration is figuring out that while slapping tariffs on Chinese products (and making Americans pay for it) is easy, expanding his war much further is like turning out the lights for the second biggest market in the world and the biggest loser would be America.
When you start a fight it’s best to know what your objective is. For Trump, he best start thinking not just shouting, or soon he will be gone in the blink of an eye.
Image source: www.indiatvnews.com
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