April 01, 2020

Global Supply Chains, Economic Decoupling, and U.S.-China Relations, Part 1: The View from the United States

By Sagatom Saha and Ashley Feng

The trade war has defined the current adversarial relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). While President Donald J. Trump has at times openly expressed admiration for Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, his administration has pursued policies consistent with economic and technological decoupling. These policies include reforms that strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS); greater usage of the export control system, especially the Entity List; and threatening the use of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to force U.S. companies back to the United States. These policies, taken to their logical end, would see the secular decoupling of the U.S. and Chinese economies and the rerouting of the global supply chains that bind them.

The interim trade deal has done seemingly little to change the structural economic conflict between Beijing and Washington. If economic decoupling came to pass, it would portend a sweeping reorientation of the global economy that many analysts regard as lying outside the bounds of conventional analysis. Yet some Trump administration officials, such as Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro, have promoted economic decoupling as their desired aim (SCMP, June 20, 2018; Forbes, December 3, 2019). President Trump himself has “ordered” American companies to look for alternative suppliers outside of China, or to return production to the United States (Twitter, August 23, 2019).

Read the full article from The Jamestown Foundation's China Brief.

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