Does China Play Fair?
Competition from China will only get fiercer. That calls for cool heads and wise policies
IF DONALD TRUMP had slapped punitive tariffs on all Chinese exports to America, as he promised, he would have started a trade war. Fortunately, the president hesitated, partly because he wants China’s help in thwarting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But that is not the end of the story. Tensions over China’s industrial might now threaten the architecture of the global economy. America’s trade representative this week called China an “unprecedented” threat that cannot be tamed by existing trade rules. The European Union, worried by a spate of Chinese acquisitions, is drafting stricter rules on foreign investment. And, all the while, China’s strategy for modernising its economy is adding further strain. 如果特朗普像他承诺过的那样，对我国出口到美国的所有商品征收惩罚性关税，那么他就会挑起一场贸易战。所幸这位总统犹豫了，部分原因是他需要我国的帮助来挫败朝鲜的核野心。但故事并未到此结束。我国的产业实力引发的紧张局势如今威胁到了全球经济的结构。本周，美国贸易代表称我国是“前所未有的”威胁，无法由现有的贸易规则制约。我国一连串的海外收购引发了欧盟的担忧，它正在起草针对外国投资的更严格规定。与此同时，我国经济现代化的战略也在加剧这种紧张局势。
At the heart of these tensions is one simple, overwhelming fact: firms around the world face ever more intense competition from their Chinese rivals. China is not the first country to industrialise, but none has ever made the leap so rapidly and on such a monumental scale. Little more than a decade ago Chinese boom towns churned out zips, socks and cigarette lighters. Today the country is at the global frontier of new technology in everything from mobile payments to driverless cars. 这些紧张局势的核心是一个简单而又无法辩驳的事实：*各地的公司都面临着来自我国对手的日益激烈的竞争。我国不是*个工业化的国家，但从没有哪一个国家曾如此*地实现了如此大规模的飞跃。仅仅十多年前，我国新兴的城镇还在大量生产拉链、袜子和打火机。如今，从移动支付到无人驾驶汽车，我国在方方面面都处于全球新技术的前沿。
Even as China’s achievements inspire awe, there is growing concern that the world will be dominated by an economy that does not play fair. Businesses feel threatened. Governments that have seen Brexit and the election of Mr Trump, worry about the effects of job losses and shrinking technological leadership. Yet if the outcome is to be good, they must all think clearly about the real nature of China’s challenge. 我国的成就令人敬畏，但同时人们也越来越担心*将被一个不公平行事的经济体所主宰。各行各业感受到了威胁。已目睹了英国退欧和特朗普当选的各国政府则担心职位流失和技术*优势缩减的影响。不过，如果想要得到好的结果，它们都必须清楚地思考由我国带来的挑战的真正本质。
Go, in three dimensions
Undoubtedly, China has form. It kept its currency cheap for years, boosting exporters; it finances its state-owned giants with cheap credit; and its cyber-spies steal secrets. Yet depictions of corporate China as just an undemocratic, state-run monster, thieving and cheating to get ahead, are crude and out of date. Home-grown innovation is flourishing. The innovators are mainly private, not the many heads of a single creature called China Inc. To separate hype from reality, think of Chinese competition as having three dimensions: illegal, intense and unfair. Each needs a different response. 毫无疑问，我国在不当竞争方面是有前科的。多年来它一直压低汇率以提振出口;它为国有巨头给低息贷款;它的网络间谍窃取机密。但如果还是把我国企业描述成不民主的国营怪物，靠剽窃和欺骗冒头，就简单粗暴且过时了。我国本土的创新正在蓬勃发展。创新的主体是私营企业，而不是一个叫“我国有限公司”的生物的诸多分身。为区分炒作和现实，可以从三个方面看待我国的竞争：非法、激烈、不公平。每一面需要不同的应对方式。
First, consider illegality. The best example is the blatant theft of intellectual property that makes for the most sensational headlines, such as the charges laid in 2014 against five Chinese military officers for hacking into American nuclear, solar and metals firms. The good news is such crimes are declining. An agreement with America in 2015 seemingly led to a marked drop in Chinese hacks of foreign companies and, as Chinese firms produce more of value, they are themselves demanding better intellectual-property protection at home. 首先来看非法。较好的例证就是我国明目张胆地窃取知识产权，一次次成为轰动的头条新闻。比如2014年，五名我国军官被指控入侵美国核电厂、太阳能企业和金属公司的电脑网络。好消息是此类犯罪正在减少。2015年与美国达成的一项协议似乎令我国对外国公司的黑客行为大幅减少，而且随着我国企业创造的价值越来越高，它们自己也要求在国内获得更好的知识产权保护。
The second dimension—intense but legal competition—is far more important. Chinese firms have proven that they can make good products for less. Consumer prices for televisions, adjusted for quality, fell by more than 90% in the 15 years after China joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO). China’s share of global exports has risen to 14%, the highest any country has reached since America in 1968. That may fall as China loses its grip on low-value industries such as textiles. But it is gaining a new reputation in high tech. If data are the new oil, China’s tech industry has vast reserves in the information generated by the hundreds of millions of its people online—unprotected by privacy rules. Whether you make cars in Germany, semiconductors in America or robots in Japan, the chances are that in future some of your fiercest rivals will be Chinese. 第二个方面——激烈但合法的竞争——要重要得多。我国的公司已经*，它们能以更少的成本做出好产品。我国加入*贸易组织(WTO)的15年里，按质量调整后，电视机的零售价格下降了90%以上。我国在全球出口中所占的份额已经上升到14%，这是自1968年的美国以来的*水平。随着我国失去对纺织等低附加值产业的控制，这一份额可能会下降。但它正在高科技领域赢得新的声誉。如果说数据是新的石油，我国的科技行业就有巨大的“储量”，这些信息由数亿网民产生，且不受隐私条款的保护。无论你是在德国生产汽车，在美国生产半导体，还是在日本生产机器人，未来某些较强劲的竞争对手很可能会是我国人。
Last, and hardest to deal with, is unfair competition: sharp practice that breaks no global rules. The government demands that firms give away technology as the cost of admission to China’s vast market (see article). Foreign firms have been targeted in the biggest of China’s anti-monopoly cases. The government restricts access to lucrative sectors, while financing assaults on those same industries abroad. Such behaviour is dangerous precisely because today’s rules offer no redress.
Don’t get angry. Get even
Sorting Chinese competition into these categories helps calibrate the response. Blatant illegality is the most straightforward. Governments must prosecute and seek redress, whether through the courts or the WTO. Firms can better protect themselves against cyber-thieves—from China and elsewhere.
Though it is politically hard, the best response to intense competition is to welcome it. Consumers will gain from lower costs and faster innovation. Misguided attempts to hold back the tide would not only lose those potential gains but might also blow up the world trading system, with catastrophic results. Rather than try to stop the loss of jobs, governments should provide retraining and a decent safety net. Both companies and governments need to spend more on education and research. Six years ago Barack Obama said America faced a new “Sputnik moment” in China’s rise. Since then not much extra has been devoted to research, training and infrastructure.
The hardest category is competition that is unfair, but not illegal. One approach is to coax China into behaving better by acting collectively. America, Europe and big Asian countries could jointly publish information about economic harm from China’s policies—as they did by sharing details about overcapacity in the steel industry, nudging China into cutting its excesses. They should demand reciprocity, requiring China to give foreign companies the same access that its own firms enjoy in their markets. Governments need to review their policies for screening investments from China so that they can block genuine threats to national security (though only those). And they should also require that investors with state backing report this in full, and punish those hiding their true identity.
Much of the responsibility for putting this right falls on China. It may ask why it should hold itself back. After all, 19th-century Germany and America grew rich behind subsidies and tariff walls; Britain and Japan were bullies. Yet, having done so well out of the global commercial ecosystem, China should recognise that it has become one of its custodians. Abuse it—illegally or by overburdening it—and it will break.要纠正这些问题，主要责任还是在我国身上。它可能会问，为什么它应该保持克制。毕竟，19世纪的德国和美国就是靠补贴和关税壁垒富裕起来，英国和日本从前也恃强凌弱。不过，既然我国从全球商业生态系统中获益良多，它应该认识到自己已经成为这个系统的守护者之一。滥用这个系统——无论是违法或是让它超负荷——都会让它崩溃。