Uh, Yay?

It’s fascinating to see the different ways that the “trade truce” is being reported. It also scares me because it illustrates how unquestioningly the press reports from government-issued press releases.

Here’s the basic: [cnbc]

In other words, they agreed that there are a lot of points to fight about, but they’ve decided to constrain the fighting and make a few conciliatory gestures in the meantime. That’s almost … “diplomatic”  But look how it’s reported elsewhere: [wapo]

Reuters has a bit more stiffness: [reut] but is more or less word-for-word

Huffington Post: [huff]

Gotta hand it to those real journalists at Huffpo, who turned “energy” into “other products.”

Does anyone want to bet me that the US didn’t just force China to buy a whole lot of American Oil and Coal?

What else is the big dance around “energy” about?

Oh, and make things better for the farmers; those guys vote. In the weird bizzaro-world that is 2018/2019, we can expect the farmers to be thrilled at this gesture. Having had their plans and prices rattled and screwed up, now the Trump administration is trying to un-screw what they did, and they’re going to insist on being rewarded for unscrewing that which they screwed. Watch.

It’s just fascinating how this is being reported. Cut and paste much?

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There are other points/items that China and the US have agreed to discuss like adults, including intellectual property, China’s refusal to let Qualcomm buy a competitor, the US’ refusal to allow Huawei to sell infrastructure, etc. And hacking. The US will want China to give some reassurances that they will stop hacking the US’ weak and vulnerable systems and the Chinese will point out that the NSA has backdoors in everything and maybe the US is a bunch of hypocrites.


  1. ridana says

    Even if they had made a wonderful new trade deal, it’s too late for the soybean farmers and others, whose crops are already either rotting in the fields or plowed under.

    Is “forced technology transfer” a euphemism for making China take all our e-waste again?

  2. says

    “Forced technology transfer” refers to a policy the Chinese government uses, in which companies that want access to China’s labor pool are required to train Chinese engineers on how the industrial processes work.

    The US outright robbed the English and French blind the same way during the industrial revolution. So we know the consequences of losing intellectual property ;) Although sometimes American government flat out bought interesting people “come move to Connecticut and we’ll help you start a business!”

    There is an assumption I do not like embedded in the idea, and that is the assumption that the USA are tremendous innovators and we have these vast piles of intellectual property lying around to steal. That idea is just wrong. We have plenty of secret special inventions, but they are exposed as a matter of doing business. For example, most Americans are shocked to discover that the Chinese know how to make iPhones. Just kidding. And China asked Microsoft for Windows’ source code and Microsoft asked “can we ship you a whole hard drive? Because it’s a lot of DVDs.” China has Google bending over backwards to get its foothold in their market (I think they are being played) These arrangements are made at the board level based on markets and business needs and – of course – profit. I once said “how do you steal intellectual property from an American company? It’s in the boardroom.”

    You know who’s said some of the same things? Jack Ma. He understands that sometimes you do business and you have the advantage, and other times you don’t and sometimes you walk away. The US’ attitude is that innovation is a domain that belongs to the US.

    My opinion is that it’s US stupid racism bubbling up again. After WWII the US treated Japan and Korea like they were helpless noob captive economies that could only make cheap junk. Cue shock and awe in the 70s when Honda obliterated Detroit and Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi crushed Edison, Westinghouse, and left the survivors of the American consumer products industry sitting there going “what happened?!” Some of that was mandatory tech transfer arrangements with Japan and South Korea. US companies taught them in order to gain access to labor. Now it’s Kia and Hyundai… gosh darn, the Koreans can build cars?! WTF?!

    But still I think there’s a deep core of racism, or perhaps “national overestimation/arrogance” – it’s as if the US simply can’t believe that anyone but an American can make a nuke and have a ballistic missile program. We still sneer at the Russians but, as Putin didn’t say “we did not invent the F-35” meanwhile, the Japanese domestic F-16 (built under license, oops I mean mandatory technology transfer is better than ours. And cheaper.

  3. cvoinescu says

    Urban legend of three or four decades ago is that the Chinese used to buy machinery in twos. Nothing too advanced technologically, but something they would not already have — so they would go to Eastern European manufacturers rather than the West, and buy trucks, tractors, and locomotives — and also lathes and other tools and equipment. Manufacturers would assume that an order of two tractors was a sample, to be followed by a larger order if they were satisfied, so they would make a much better effort in supplying a quality product. (Manufacturing under communist regimes was notorious for bad quality and even worse quality control — but they knew how to make decent stuff when motivated. The possibility of a really large order would put even a state-owned, state-run production system in gear — at least as far as producing an excellent sample.) The legend is that the Chinese factories then disassembled one item, replicated each individual part, and used the intact one as an assembly guide. The larger order never came.

    Versions of the story are embellished with the notion that in a certain truck model, the engine block they delivered to China came from a prototype that had been manufactured with four additional holes (probably for instrumentation), which had then been filled with aluminium plugs when no longer necessary. A few years later, engineers examining Chinese-made trucks found that all of them had the same four holes in their engine blocks, nicely threaded and filled with aluminium plugs.

    Much more recently, a friend of mine told me that their company wanted to source a custom part from China. They sent the manufacturer a drawing (it was a very simple item — a ball with a blind threaded hole, I think, part of the decor in a commercial building they were designing). The response came back that they could do it, but please send a physical item for them to replicate, not drawings.

    Both stories resonate with some of the same racism/national arrogance — Eastern Europe was not, and is not, above that, by any means — and they were certainly framed that way. They are, probably, mostly true, though — and, on reflection, and in context, they can be interpreted positively too. China of a few decades ago was a natural experiment in bootstrapping industry. (And the more recent one is probably about a small manufacturer with skilled workers, but without someone with formal training on staff.)

  4. says

    Oh, Trump’s trade wars, they are so fascinating. Back when I first heard about Trump starting a trade war against the European Union, I could hardly believe it. I’m from the European Union and, being 26, I went to school not so long ago. Back then, at school, I was taught that US is our ally, that EU and US support each other. There was even a talk about how EU has to support George Bush’s stupid war, because that’s what allies do.

    And now my country is in a trade war with the US. Hmm, interesting. Aren’t allies supposed to not wage trade wars? Does that mean the US is now our enemy?

    Isn’t it incredible how Trump has managed to piss off the whole world!

    By the way, I know that talking about other countries as “allies” or “enemies” is stupid in itself. Here I’m using this vocabulary for the sake of an argument and also because that’s what teachers told me at school.

    On a different note, in theory, technology transfer is good and ought to be welcomed. If people who live in Asia or Africa or any other impoverished region learn how to make computers, software, cars, roads, bridges, quality homes, pharmaceuticals, etc., then that’s amazing. They can improve their living standard, eliminate diseases, reduce child mortality, and supply their population with a sufficient amount of food. That’s all amazing. We who live in the developed world shouldn’t wish for billions of other people to live in slums, in poverty, starving, and with no access to healthcare. Instead we should encourage them to adopt technology and improve their living conditions. But, no, you cannot have humane goals in this world. Instead you must fear that your profits might get reduced if people who own another factory learn how to make the same stuff you are selling. You must desire for other people to live in misery just to have access to cheap labor. This is so damn sick. I’m not even buying the argument that if the Chinese or Africans learned how to make cars, then that would further increase the CO2 emissions. Keeping billions of people in poverty isn’t a feasible way how to solve the climate problems.

  5. voyager says

    I avoid mainstream sources of news. I don’t trust any of them and this is part of the reason why. A press release should trigger a few questions, but that never seems to happen anymore. The fourth estate has been overtaken and is being used as a tool for propaganda. Just another symptom of the rise of fascism. I hate that I’ve become so cynical, but just how else are you supposed to cope in times like this.

  6. says

    I avoid mainstream sources of news. I don’t trust any of them and this is part of the reason why. A press release should trigger a few questions, but that never seems to happen anymore. The fourth estate has been overtaken and is being used as a tool for propaganda. Just another symptom of the rise of fascism. I hate that I’ve become so cynical, but just how else are you supposed to cope in times like this.

    When the media began to be taken over by mega-corporations, it was immediately obvious that the reason was to manipulate mass perception about the mega-corporations’ agenda. I only read the news, now, because it’s blogfodder and sometimes I encounter something beautiful I can cling to.

  7. Jazzlet says

    Back in the 80s when I used to do environmental campaining, against building yet more roads and for improved cyling facilities and better public transport, one of the first lessons you learnt was that if you write a good press release it will be published in it’s entirety as an article by the local papers, often without any counter view. Nationally the organisation did the same with more likelihood of the counter view, but still with the majority of the press release being published. Very few papers had journalists with the relevant expertise to actually investigate stories for themselves, and even fewer have them now. It worked for local and national radio and TV too. The campaigning organisations learnt that lesson from Government and industry who had of course been doing it for years.

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