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Did China “Destroy” Globalization?

Globalization arrived as a giant paradoxical force that created enormous wealth and brought millions of developing-world citizens out of poverty, but in the West led to economic hardship among working-class families. China responds that it is being unfairly blamed for a failure by American plutocratic elites to protect their working class.

Rob Atkinson offers commentary on this topic as part of a symposium in The International Economy also featuring views from William R. Cline, James K. Galbraith, James E. Glassman, Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Richard Jerram, Steven B. Kamin, Richard Katz, Arthur Kroeber, Anne O. Krueger, Desmond Lachman, Hongyi Lai, Simon Lester, Greg Mastel, Joseph S. Nye, Jim O’Neill, Derek Scissors, Stan Veuger, Marina v N. Whitman, and Chen Zhao.

Atkinson notes that when China joined the World Trade Organization, it did so thinking not of interdependent production but of commercial warfare. Since its accession, it has flaunted WTO rules and norms, knowing that as long as it put a few regulations on paper and enforced mafia-like threats of punishment against Western companies to prevent complaining about its innovation mercantilism, it would be in like Flynn.

The results are clear to anyone who holds a modicum of objectivity: the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs, dampening global innovation, and the transformation of many economies into natural resource colonies. China did not cause income inequality. And it is only partially responsible for low productivity and wage growth. But if it had lived up to its obligations, the world’s faith in globalization would have suffered much less than it has.

Read the full symposium.

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