Obama and Hu's Theater of the Absurd - Opinion

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- President Hu Jintao visits the United States, leader of an industrial juggernaut and heir apparent to American global economic leadership.

China is growing at a breakneck pace, its exporters capturing a lion's share of global markets in strategic industries and its citizens enjoy rising prosperity and economic security.

The United States endures a mediocre growth, its businesses fleeing for Asia and Russia, and its citizens endure falling wages and uncertain futures.

This is not how the historic struggle between socialism and capitalism was to end, but it is how President Obama willed it.

Abroad, the president refuses to defend American capitalism, and at home, he recklessly abuses private enterprise.

International competition between China and the United States is governed by rules -- spelled out by the World Trade Organization and other agreements. President Obama has stood idle while China violates the letter and spirit of those rules to boost exports, restrict imports and enjoy steroidal growth that handicaps U.S.-based businesses and destroys American jobs.

Economists no less prominent than Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, and former Assistant Treasury Secretary Fred Bergsten have joined me in enumerating how China's undervalued yuan affords its exports huge subsidies, slows U.S. growth and raises unemployment.

Krugman, Bergsten and I have suggested strategies: an import tax, counterinvention in currency markets by the Treasury and a tax conversion of dollars into yuan.

Last fall at the UN, President Obama exclaimed that if China does not move the U.S. can act unilaterally. Hu called Obama's bluff, and the president flinched.

No surprise: China won't let markets determine the value of the yuan any time soon.

Businesses are leaving the United States because of Chinese procurement regulations. For example, China requires 70% of the parts in turbines purchased by state-owned wind farms be produced domestically, and 80% of China's wind farms are state owned. As China and the United States are the two largest markets for wind turbines, only a fool would not locate production in China to service both markets.

Subsidies and similar problems persist in solar panels and for other critical emerging technologies.

The president is aware of all of this, he complains bitterly but does little, and China captures huge shares of world markets. China's success has little to do with cheap labor, because wages contribute only small amounts to high-tech product prices.

The president could impose similar procurement requirements on turbines, solar panels and other products purchased with government money, and impose countervailing duties on Chinese subsidies, but he has been too busy handicapping U.S. private enterprise to be bothered.

The president obsesses endlessly about increasing social spending and federal taxes, and imposing regulations that raise the cost of doing business -- for example, new health care taxes and reforms, new ineffective but burdensome bank regulations and new permitting rules that shut down U.S. oil and gas development.

It should be no surprise small businesses are dropping health plans, and even more Americans can't afford health insurance; hundreds of regional banks have failed, and surviving institutions can't provide adequate credit to small businesses; and gasoline prices are soaring, and BP ( BP) is giving Kremlin-controlled Rosneft a 5% ownership stake to obtain drilling rights in Russia.

At least the Romans could take solace -- they did not elect Nero. Americans chose Barack Obama to heap kerosene on anyone seeking a profit.

Seeing America's workers unemployed and living standards falling, and Barack Obama afraid to respond to Chinese initiatives, President Hu will see little purpose in heeding U.S. pleadings for market-determined exchange rates and economic reforms.

To save face, President Obama will refocus summit discussions on China's shabby human rights record and political reforms. This may provide the President good press coverage, but it is Theater of the Absurd.

On human rights and political reform, the United States has much less leverage than on economic issues. Why should President Hu embrace U.S prescriptions on matters that strike to the heart of the Communist Party's grasp on power?

Simply put, President Obama talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. No one sees that better than President Hu.

Readers Also Like:


Professor Peter Morici, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. Prior to joining the university, he served as director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. He is the author of 18 books and monographs and has published widely in leading public policy and business journals, including the Harvard Business Review and Foreign Policy. Morici has lectured and offered executive programs at more than 100 institutions, including Columbia University, the Harvard Business School and Oxford University. His views are frequently featured on CNN, CBS, BBC, FOX, ABC, CNBC, NPR, NPB and national broadcast networks around the world.

More from Opinion

Elon Musk's Latest Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Elon Musk's Latest Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Elon Musk's Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Elon Musk's Twitter Tirade Is the Dumbest Thing on Wall Street

Why Google's Search Momentum Won't Be Badly Hurt by New EU Rules

Why Google's Search Momentum Won't Be Badly Hurt by New EU Rules

Flashback Friday: Amazon, Chip Stocks, Memorial Day

Flashback Friday: Amazon, Chip Stocks, Memorial Day

Time to Talk Tesla: What Happened This Week, Elon?

Time to Talk Tesla: What Happened This Week, Elon?