Straight talk about China and corporate America

Sen. Marco Rubio is the U.S. Senator best attuned to and most focused on the problem China poses to the U.S. and the world at-large. At least that’s what I infer from his public pronouncements on the subject.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Rubio maintained that a significant part of our problem with China stems from shortsighted American corporate CEO’s. He stated:

If you go to China, they promise you ‘X percent’ of their overall market share. You make money, and you look good in front of your shareholders, but you’re also turning over your intellectual property and eventually they’re going to replace you. But who cares? You won’t be CEO in 10 years when that happens.

Rubio has hit the nail on the head.

At the risk of sounding like James Comey, one might say that China is eating corporate America’s soul:

[The Chinese] have traditionally been able to unleash the American corporate class to march up to D.C. and pressure their policymakers to back down [from taking tough measures to counter China’s unfair practices] because so many of these companies have established a market presence in China that in the short-term is very beneficial but in the long-term is probably suicide for those companies.

Rubio recognizes that Donald Trump is the first American president willing to stand up to China and to pressure on its behalf from corporate America. “This is the first administration that has not backed down,” he said.

The problem is that China’s leaders are unaccustomed to a president who is willing to go to the mat with them. Therefore, says Rubio, they have underestimated this president’s resolve.

China probably isn’t underestimating it any longer. However, its leaders know that there’s a presidential election coming up. They also have good reason to believe that Joe Biden, if he becomes president, will restore the tradition of accommodating China — and then some.

Rubio’s discussion of CEO complicity with China was part of a broader critique of corporate America. The Senator is releasing a report on the decline of business investment in America over the past few decades. It shows that non-financial corporations for the first time now spend more on acquiring financial assets than they do on capital development.

Again, this approach may maximize short-term return but it comes at the expense of investment that leads to growth.

Rubio’s critique of corporate America, as distilled by the Post’s James Hohmann, is worth reading in full.

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