Much of the press coverage on the current state of US-China commercial relations is focused on competition, and not enough on the market for American goods and services.
China as a competitor has been dominating press headlines for years. Candidates seeking high office in the United States have been informing voters that China is a competitor and the only solution is tough action. Political columnists use China to score easy points and advance one-sided protectionist remedies.
Years of one-sided opinion is having a negative impact on US-China commercial relations and is fostering a tit-for-tat retaliatory tariff environment.
In the United States, negative views of China have increased by 26 percentage points between 2006 and 2016. And American negativity towards China has been higher than Chinese negativity toward the United States in every year since 2014.
A January 2017 Pew Research survey of Americans found that 65 percent of respondents said China is either an adversary (22 percent) or a serious problem (43 percent), while only about a third (31 percent) said China is not an issue.
And in a separate Spring 2016 survey by Pew Research, a majority (55 percent) of Americans held an unfavorable opinion of what more and more Americans see as their largest Asian rival.
This hostile environment is the public affairs reality that American business is facing right now.
Many now see China, one of America's most significant and most promising markets, as a loser for US business. Unfortunately, this belief is fertile ground for politicians supporting protectionist policies and trade halting tariffs. Actions that if successfully passed would force Beijing to respond with retaliatory trade tactics including increased limits stifling full access to the growing Chinese consumer marketplace for American goods and services.
It is time for those that care about a productive and engaged US-China commercial relationship to take these polls seriously and engage Americans in Main Street coffee shops and at picnic tables for backyard BBQs.
For far too long American business has overly relied on a model dependent on high-level government relationships and support from the White House and corresponding federal agencies to manage the US-China relationship.
This model to manage the US-China relationship is exhausted and broken.
US companies exported $135 billion in goods to China in 2017, and it is still the third-largest US goods export market behind Canada and Mexico, our neighbors and NAFTA partners.
Thirty states experienced at least triple-digit goods export growth to China since 2006, and four states saw growth of more than 500 percent over the same period: Alabama, Montana, North Dakota, and South Carolina. Every US state had triple-digit services export growth to China since 2006, 16 states had export growth of more than 400 percent.
At a grassroots level, it is critical to remind Americans US goods and services exported to China come from a wide range of industries. Goods such as transportation equipment, agriculture products, computers and electronics, and chemicals. These exports also sustain logistics jobs in America’s ports and warehouses throughout the country. Also, US services exports come from the travel, education, and transportation sectors as well as professional business and financial services.
Leaders of American business needs to play a decisive role in reversing this trend and ensuring American goods and services reach the ever-expanding Chinese marketplace. Sitting on the sidelines will be too detrimental for America's economic security.
- Marc A. Ross
Marc A. Ross specializes in global communications, thought leader management, and event production at the intersection of politics, policy, and profits. Working with senior executives from multinational corporations, trade associations, and disruptive startups, Marc helps international business leaders navigate globalization, disruption, and politics.