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Trump Weighs in on China

By Taylor Marvin

“China is raping this country.”

-Donald Trump

Given that the typical American is almost incomparably richer than the average Chinese citizen, this statement is so simplistic to be almost offensive.

Currently, America’s GDP is 1.4 times China’s. Given that China’s population is over 4 times larger than the US, this is an enormous discrepancy. While the total size of the Chinese economy is expected to surpass that of the US sometime in the next two decades, this will have almost no effect on the standard of living disparity between the two countries, which will remain high for the foreseeable future. Americans tend to forget that China is still a fundamentally poor country, and that most Chinese live in circumstances unimaginable for most Americans. Most of China’s recent economic growth — the “raping” Trump references — has been in manufacturing, jobs that in China mean 12 hour days of intense, constant labor in horrible conditions. Foxconn, an enormous firm in Shenzhen that manufactures iPhones and iPads, recently drew attention in the West for an outbreak of suicides in its factories, and these types of working conditions in urban China are closer to the rule than the exception. However, Chinese society has welcomed the advent of globalized manufacturing and rural Chinese citizens flock to cities in pursuit of these jobs, because, despite their hardships, a place in the growing Chinese economy is a huge improvement over the still largely constant poverty of rural China. China’s recent growth in the last three decades is probably one of the single greatest improvements in aggregate human welfare in history:

Source: World Bank, Google Public Data Explorer

Select GDP per capita growth. Source: World Bank, Google Public Data Explorer

Resenting China’s growth implies a worldview that values American, rather than human, welfare. Of course, there are aspects of Chinese economic development that aren’t in the interests of the US, China’s artificially devalued currency being one. However, reducing the relationship between the world’s two largest economies into a zero-sum rivalry does no one any favors.

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