Friday, October 11, 2019

This is How You Can Stand with the Chinese People

A Don Boudreaux letter to Nolan McKinney:

Mr. McKinney:

You allege that my and others’ “support of free trade is support for despots like [Chinese president] Xi and tyranny overseas.”

Not so. My and others’ support for free trade is opposition to despots and tyranny here at home.

You’ll push back by arguing that
by allowing Americans to trade freely with the Chinese, the U.S. government supports Beijing’s tyranny. But that argument is weak. As explained by Nobel-laureate economist Ronald Coase and Ning Wang, by Nicholas Lardy, and by many others, the Chinese people grew richer to the extent that they embraced free markets. Because free markets give ordinary people more options (not to mention tastes of freedom), a predictable, if ironic, consequence of the enrichment of ordinary Chinese people is increased suppression by Beijing’s authoritarians, who are desperate to hold on to power.

Unlike many, I believe that the experiment in China is still playing out. For Beijing to (re)establish and to retain anything remotely close to the level of tyranny that reigned under Mao – and that I don’t doubt Xi & Co. would relish – Beijing will have to cram the market genie back into its bottle. Because such cramming is made multiple times more difficult the more numerous and thick are the commercial ties that the Chinese people have with other peoples, including Americans, U.S.-imposed restrictions on trade will likely raise, not lower, the likelihood that Xi fully succeeds in strapping the Chinese people again securely to tyranny’s rack.

Is the opposite outcome possible? Of course it is. But I point you now to Hong Kong. These are people who have enjoyed freedom and free trade for much longer, and much more fully and deeply, than have their brothers and sisters on the mainland. The people of Hong Kong are not going quietly into the gruesome night of tyranny. Yes, Beijing might eventually ‘win’ in Hong Kong. But to do so it must unleash such blasts of brutality that perhaps – perhaps – even the likes of Xi understands will bring a ‘victory’ only Pyrrhic.

But one thing above all seems highly likely (for nothing in such matters is certain): to the extent that we reduce our commercial ties with the Chinese people, we make them poorer and less able, and perhaps also less willing, to resist Xi and his goons. Yes, we also make Beijing poorer. But the greater effect will be on ordinary Chinese people. With the Chinese people poorer, and with their trade ties to the west severed, the Chinese communist party will have an easier time of bringing full-on tyranny back to China. It will also have even greater incentives to do so given that there will be little wealth for it to gain by allowing its subjects even a modicum of economic freedom.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


  1. Don you are a fool if you think that supporting the Chinese people is anything more then tilting at windmills.

    The noose of the Chinese social network control platform has already condemned them. The old days of control are back in a new shiny package. The best you can hope at this point in time and I mean BEST is that the people of Hong Kong show the world just how like Mao the new China is and that it is an enemy and will continue to be an enemy of real capitalism.

  2. Hey, at least Donald Trump actually cares about Americans having jobs. Libertardians rejoice every time a plant is closed. This is why I mostly hate libertarians because they want open borders where trash can come over for the most part and more than happy to stick up for commies because of 'muh free trade'.

    Yes, we need to do a better job of providing companies a reason to stay here, but supporting China and 'free trade' with people who don't respect those ideas is stupidity.

  3. They are making the communist Chinese richer by making Americans poorer. The only ones getting rich in China are the 100,000,000 CCP members while the other 90% ar enslaved. The special secret accounting practices they are allowed give them unchecked privileges and advantage aka subsidies. And any really successful business like say Alibaba just gets confiscated by the CCP.