The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission is a small gem of an independent government body that has functioned as the loyal opposition to the corporate conventional wisdom regarding China trade ever since the commission was created by Congress in 2000. The bipartisan commission holds hearings and produces deep investigative reports on how Chinese Leninist capitalism actually works, and the threat to the U.S. national interest.
Their latestannual reportpoints out that President Xi Jinping has tightened controls over Chinas nominally private sector, and as a consequence U.S. investment in China operates on terms even more expressly dictated by the Chinese Communist Party.
Among its 15 priority recommendations, the report calls for controls on U.S. private investment in China, as well as creation of a new government authority that could review and block investments harmful to the national security. It faulted the Commerce Department for failing to perform this function as required under existing law.
China policy is one of the few areas of bipartisan concern and collaboration. The commissions recommendation for outbound investment review closely tracks legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. They are trying to attach their bill to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act.
That maneuver was tried by Sen. Chuck Schumer, to get the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act through Congress. The bill passed the Senate but is bottled up in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as an alternative to tacking it onto the Defense Authorization Act, has now agreed to put the measure to a separate vote.
The one thing missing from Schumers bill is controls on U.S. private investment in China, whether direct or via stock purchases. Delisting stocks or banning investment outright in a variety of vehicles controlled directly or indirectly by the Chinese state and Communist Party would be a sign that the U.S. is getting both serious and strategic.
The mainstream press is of little help. It is about 20 years behind the curve in comprehending how Chinas system actually works, and persists in conflating Bidens targeted industrial policy with Trumps blunderbuss jingoism. Inthis piece,Timeseconomics writer Binyamin Appelbaum looks at the short-term cost of tariffs rather than seeing them as part of a long-term strategic policy to alter Chinas behavior.
Writers like this are mired in the unreal assumptions of Econ 101. They should stay after class and read reports of the U.S. China Commission.