Are we the baddies?

You’ve probably seen that amusing British comedy bit when one German officers asks another, “Are we the baddies?”

I’m pretty sure that we (in the US) aren’t the Nazis, although some pro-lifers complain that legal abortion is kind of like the Holocaust. (Not my view!!)

Nonetheless, as each day goes by I see more and more news stories that remind me of that meme. Here’s The Economist:

The latest tariffs reject such mechanisms. The administration could have set out how Chinese EVs had gained from huge subsidies and then hit them with calibrated countervailing duties. It could have documented the security threat it claims they pose, rather than offering scary conjectures. Instead, it covered its protectionist aims with a fig-leaf: the new tariffs were put on top of Mr Trump’s, which were themselves originally justified by China’s theft of American technology. How farcical. The real fear about Chinese evs today is not that they are stealing from America, but that they have left American cars in the dust.

America’s blatant disdain for the need to make a rigorous case has dangerous consequences. At home it invites more firms to seek protection. Republicans and Democrats are already vying to offer the steepest barriers: Mr Trump has warned that he will put tariffs of 200% on cars made by Chinese-owned plants in Mexico. 

As if that’s not bad enough, now the US is bullying smaller nations into imposing tariffs of Chinese goods.

Canada has faced domestic and international pressure to join U.S. policy after President Joe Biden announced last month that tariffs on Chinese EVs would be raised to 102.5%, nearly four times the current rate. Following the U.S.’s lead, the EU also revealed plans last week to impose up to 48% tariffs on certain Chinese EVs.

Western countries, including the U.S., believe China’s overproduction threatens their industries by dominating the global supply chain.

Yes, I know. There are plenty of far worse regimes out there. Even so, it’s discouraging to see how America’s moral authority has declined so sharply over the past 10 years. We no longer even pretend to care about the international agreements that we once helped to forge.

I guess banana republics don’t need badges.



29 Responses to “Are we the baddies?”

  1. Gravatar of Arilando Arilando
    25. June 2024 at 16:05

    Is there any policy you would consider acceptable that would prevent the US from becoming overly dependent on China for key goods?

  2. Gravatar of Richard A. Richard A.
    25. June 2024 at 16:13

    Meanwhile, Japan so far appears to be allowing cheap China made EVs to be sold in Japan.

    According to goggle’s Gemini, Japan doesn’t have tariffs on EVs.
    Here in the US are practicing green protectionism.

  3. Gravatar of Kenneth Duda Kenneth Duda
    25. June 2024 at 16:20

    Arilando, what does “overly dependent” mean, and which goods are “key”?

    Should I, as a Californian, worry about being overly dependent on Texas for oil? Especially if Trump is re-elected — we know Trump aims to exact revenge on his perceived enemies, and I doubt he feels a lot of warm fuzzies from Silicon Valley or Hollywood.

    Or going from doubtful to comical: should I, as a resident of Menlo Park, worry about being overly dependent on eating out in Palo Alto? I mean, if food isn’t a key good, what is?

    Or could it be that tribalism is a cognitive illusion driven into our ids by 100,000 years of brutal tribal anarchy, and we should try to listen more to our thinking brains and less to our feeling brains when formulating industrial policy?

    Putting this another way, can you identify one time in history where a large, broadly diversified country like the US became overly dependent on some other country for a key good and suffered some adverse consequence? As far as I can tell, international sanctions on Russia have had exactly zero effect. One reason for that is that markets are global, and if country A won’t sell key good G to country B, someone else generally will.

  4. Gravatar of Will Will
    25. June 2024 at 16:38

    “The economists say Trump’s economic plans would reignite inflation, in part because of his pledge to impose stiffer tariffs on Chinese imports, which they say will hike prices on many goods bought by U.S. consumers.”

    Meanwhile, Biden is imposing new tariffs while retaining Trump’s (

    I don’t even know what to say when I read these kinds of things.

  5. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    25. June 2024 at 16:57

    Everything makes sense when you realize we’re already in a Cold War against China. China, North Korea, and Iran are supporting Russia’s genocidal, revanchist conquest of Ukraine. That doesn’t mean that our policies are optimally constructed, but when are they, really?

    To paraphrase Eli Lake:

    The slave state of North Korea. the one-party state of China, and the theocratic regime in Iran are aiding the mafia state of Russia in its genocidal, revanchist conquest of Ukraine. Anyone who is unclear who the good guys are at this moment is a fool. When the dirtbags align it’s clarifying.

  6. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    25. June 2024 at 17:15


    what’s different here is that unlike the USSR in the cold war, China brings cheap and good products and therefore, prosperity to the rest of the world and leaves the rest of the world’s politics much alone (South China Sea excepted). So the net effect of all this is the US (and Europe) becoming internationally less and less competitive, and less and less desirable as political partners. Because, really, in the rest of the world no one cares if it’s the US or China dominating int’l affairs. Generally speaking China is far, far, far less meddling in anyone’s politics than the US, and hasn’t bombed any country in literal generations.

    Writing from Singapore here, from my perspective the US’s beef with China is based almost entirely on a fear of losing economic competitiveness and nearly zero on any abstract concepts of law, justice in int’l affairs etc. Ironically these tariffs will hurt the West’s competitiveness instead of strengthening it, nevermind grossly violating any and all principles, economic and legal, peddled by the West since 1945. So these tariffs also destroy the West’s political clout in the rest of the world because they are seen as pure, unadulterated hypocrisy.

  7. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    25. June 2024 at 17:31

    China is significantly aiding Russia’s war in Ukraine. The US government has recently said as much. We can put our heads in the sand and pretend that it’s not happening, but that didn’t work out so great for us in WWI or WWII.

    Our industrial base is woefully unprepared for conventional war. We’re currently unable to fully support Ukraine’s needs. The last thing we need is to allow China to completely hollow out our industrial capacity. In the event of war, we’ll be in a world of hurt.

    Kenneth, I strongly recommend reading the perspective of an expert on financial sanctions:

  8. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    25. June 2024 at 17:42

    On top of significantly helping Russia wage a genocidal war in Ukraine, China is massively ramping up its military. I don’t take any comfort in the fact that China has not directly waged war on other countries recently, nor should anyone else.

    The three languages of politics by Arnold Kling is informative. Only conservatives understand that there can be true evil in the world that seeks to destroy civilization and the human rights we frankly take for granted.

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. June 2024 at 18:24

    Arilindo, Sure, I’d favor policies that preserved our ability to have access to key defense goods, perhaps subsidizing the building of fighters, warplanes, etc. But not EVs.

    Will, Yes, it’s a depressing picture. And very little of it has anything to do with national defense.

    Robert, You said: “Everything makes sense when you realize we’re already in a Cold War against China”

    Launching a cold war against China was one of the dumbest things we’ve ever done. We need to focus more on stopping Russia in Ukraine, where we are doing too little.

    “China is significantly aiding Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

    Many countries are doing so. Do you wish to launch a cold war against India, because they trade with Russia? Lots of Western firms (even American firms) still operate in Russia.

    When Ukraine bombed Russian refineries, The US complained because we worried it would hurt Biden’s re-election prospects. (It wouldn’t.)

  10. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    25. June 2024 at 19:09

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say we launched a Cold War against China. After all, we’re now belatedly playing catch up to the Chinese as far as military industrial capacity is concerned. So it’s more accurate to say that China has made moves that have forced our hand.

    I agree we should focus more in Ukraine. The Biden admin has done a horrendous job explaining why we need to help Ukraine. Many countries are buying blood oil from Russia, but what China, Iran, and North Korea are doing is on a whole other level in terms of providing military support. India is a key non-aligned country that would likely determine the winning bloc in a potential WWIII.

    China, above all other countries, is the key supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Additionally, I think most people want to pretend that China is not providing the most support to Russia’s war. It would be too difficult for us to justify why we’re still trading with a country that is clearly siding with a genocidal dictatorship:

    The question we need to ask ourselves is: why China is doing this? Because there is no justification. And before I hear whataboutism’s about American wars, let’s all reflect on the fact that the US has presided over the most peaceful period in the world in recorded human history. Period. Full stop. Based on the actions of China to date, I don’t want to see what a multipolar world looks like.

  11. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    25. June 2024 at 19:15


    What I have been reading is that the US’ political and military leadership, as well as that in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, India and Vietnam are all very concerned about Chinese military/geopolitical ambitions in Asia. That does roughly correspond to the area around the South China Sea plus the US, India, and Australia. But put all of the economies of those countries together, and you have around half of world GDP, and probably around half of the world’s population as well. From what I have been reading, the concern is that China is seeking to replace the US as the regional hegemon in Asia, and by doing so become the country that gets to write the rules by which countries in Asia operate. US political leadership cannot talk about this for two reasons. One is that the US voting public doesn’t care and wouldn’t believe it anyway. Second is that even if politicians and others could get the US public to care and believe that China poses such a serious military and geopolitical threat, they would get blamed for the situation and lose power. Biden is already heading towards defeat, and without something like Sputnik, he cannot go around saying “China is pulling ahead of the US militarily, and if we don’t change this soon the US led system of international alliances will unravel, likely resulting in WWIII”. The US military leadership cannot admit that either, again because doing so would likely lead them to be replaced as the guys responsible for the current mess.

    Granted, the EV policy seems stupid on its face. But my understanding is that you need a domestic auto industry in the case of war to produce military vehicles, and that lots of the skills that auto workers and other manufacturing workers have are transferrable to building weapons, ships, tanks, etc. A more realistic policy from the US would be starting to develop a network of friendly countries that could be counted on to build and supply those things in the event of war, because the US system of governance is so biased in favor of stasis that about the only thing it can do well is write checks.

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. June 2024 at 19:15

    “winning bloc in a potential WWIII”

    This is exactly what worries me. No one will win a WWIII. Russia has about 5000 nuclear weapons, enough to kill almost everyone in the US. It’s madness to fight a WWIII. We are going down an exceedingly dangerous road. It reminds me of the period before WWI, except those countries lacked nuclear weapons.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. June 2024 at 19:39

    Lizard, “But my understanding is that you need a domestic auto industry in the case of war to produce military vehicles, and that lots of the skills that auto workers and other manufacturing workers have are transferrable to building weapons, ships, tanks, etc.”

    You think we are going to fight China with tanks? Where exactly will those tank battles occur? California? Shanghai?

  14. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    25. June 2024 at 20:04

    Lizard man,

    half-agreed on the first half of your post. Many in the region are concerned about China’s South China Sea ambitions and there is a strong loose coalition of staeholders trying to stem this. But it’s a far cry from being anywhere near a hegemon in this area. Neither is the US btw. But the conclusion does not follow, that somehow, of all things, tariffs on EVs and wind turbines will help here. And the chip sanctions cum Huawei kerfuffle has shown exactly how this backfires: China developing these capabilities domestically. Because unlike, say, Russia, China can.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. June 2024 at 20:17

    Everyone, Can someone explain to me why no one complains that the ROC claims the entire South China Sea, nor do they complain that the ROC military occupies the largest island (Taiping) in that region.

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. June 2024 at 20:18

  17. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    25. June 2024 at 20:29

    You’re right, but you’re not consistent. And as a utilitarian you don’t care about agreements, so stop pretending that you do. You just care about the means to acquire an end. And in this particular case your end is more Chinese growth and less western growth.

    Case in point: you think it’s acceptable when we bully Russia into submission. We can expand NATO, threaten them, spend billions on regime change, meddle in their elections, but if it involves Russia we’re always the good guys whereas if it involves China we’re always the bad guys.

    Nobody violates international aggreements more than China. Have you ever logged into Alibaba or Aliexpress? They literally copy the names of companies and sell fake goods on a global scale. And the CCP meddles in the affairs of every business, including taking their patents and technology, and duplicating it for themselves. The CCP’s goal is to own everything. They want you to own nothing.

    The reason we ask our neighbors to raise tariffs is because China will exploit the border to their advantage, as they do with steel dumps from Canada.

    Btw, Bowman lost and Boebert won.

    Did you lose sleep? Haha.

    You’ll be crying in November, Sumner, and no radical left moderators at CNN are going to help you.

  18. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    25. June 2024 at 22:37

    Nuclear weapons have successfully limited wars to a significant degree. For that reason, they’re great. Ukraine sure wishes they hadn’t been forced to give theirs up.

    That said, when push comes to shove, I don’t believe nuclear war would end life on Earth. They’re also not that useful militarily. Of course, once everyone understands that, we’re run a much higher risk of returning to mass armed wars.

    Just my two cents.

  19. Gravatar of Viennacapitalist Viennacapitalist
    25. June 2024 at 23:26

    “…We no longer even pretend to care about the international agreements that we once helped to forge…”

    That’s easy to understand:
    those international agreements used to be politically/economically/militarily useful in the past, now they are deemed less useful – hence they have to go. Realpolitik

  20. Gravatar of Edward Edward
    26. June 2024 at 02:35

    I’ve never heard anyone compare abortion to the holocaust, but glorifying abortion is extremely disturbing.

    First, it’s a failure in judgement. Second, it shows a complete disregard for human life. Third, it shows a narcissistic personality disorder. And lastly, it shows that one is immature and unwilling to accept responsibility in life.

    It’s not normal to hold signs that say “I’m proud to have had 10 abortions.” or “I’m going to get your daughter pregnant, and tell her to have an abortion,” or “Abortions are fun, your daughter should try it.” Those are the types of people who are mentally sick and radicalized by leftwing propaganda. In that regard, they are indeed a lot like Hitler.

  21. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    26. June 2024 at 03:18

    ROC claims over the South China Sea aren’t backed by any actions to actually enforce those claims (unless you count controlling Taiwan as part of that). In practice, the US Navy controls the South China Sea, and the main interest that the main interests of the US in the area is to maintain the status quo (US hegemony, peace, freedom of navigation/ relatively free trade, relatively little interference in the governance of other nations). China’s leadership seeks to control the South China Sea, and by doing so control who can and cannot use the Sea for commerce and how they use it, and also to use that control to influence the governance of other countries to install pro-Beijing regimes. Which will entail installing corrupt elites that China can easily bribe to do Beijing’s bidding, even when it is bad for or opposed by the populace of the country. So no democracy, or electoral authoritarianism like in Russia. This isn’t to say that the US is saintly. It is just that the US’ selfish long term interests better align with the interests of most of the other countries than those of China’s leadership do.

  22. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    26. June 2024 at 05:44

    Yes, we’re the bad guys because of people like you.
    As stated many times, the boomer generation, and their counter culture, big government, supranational nihilism, destroyed the fabric of American libery…

    Roger Penrose is one of the few exceptions, and is the epitome of what an academic ought to be, but he’s not technically a babyboomer.

    The boomers are so vile and biased, and incapable of truth, that before one reads a book they must now take into account the authors age and political views to discern its trustworthyness.

    A good example, although there are many, is creating fictious names like “democrat-republicans’ which never existed. Nobody in the 1790’s called themselves that. That fictious party never existed, but the boomers don’t care. They just make it up. For the record, Jefferson referred to himself as an anti-federalist, and later, after the union was formed, as a republican. From Jefferson to Van Buren, almost everyone called themselves a republican. Nobody mentioned democrat, because it came with negative connotations. No educated person in that era would ever rant and rave about democracy because they knew the difference between a republic and a democracy. They read the greek latin texts and knew why greece failed — famously coined by John Stuart Mill as the “tryanny of the majority”

    They also make up stories that never existed. For example, the boomer written textbooks suggest that Hamilton in his duel with Burr shot into the air and missed Burr purposefully. But there is not one shred of evidence. I looked for that evidence for nearly two months. I read all the testimony provided by Hamilton’s second, and Burr’s second, along with countless letters between family members, and not one of them mentioned hamilton missing on purpose. It’s just a made up story by the boomer wackos. In fact, one boomer, hard-left, wacko responded to me. He said he didn’t have ‘direct evidence’ but inferred (on a mere whim) that Hamilton fired into the air based on Hamilton’s ‘political beliefs around duels written in the 1790’s.’ In other words, he made it all up.

    They also lie about their own party. They claim, for example, that Andrew Jackson was the founder of the democrat party. No, he wasn’t. Andrew Jackson referred to himself until the day he died as a republican. It was Calhoun that created the democrat party (a thug) and he convinced jackson to run on the ticket, but Jackson never called himself that. He was an old republican and antifederalist. Van buren was the first real democrat, and he had very different views than Jackson.

    The lying continues endlessly in multiple different fields, but especially when writing historical biographies.

    In summary, the boomers are the most destructive, radical, disgusting generation of liars to have ever existed. We’re the bad guys, precisely because they’re immoral thugs, who felt it necessary to insert their political bias and hatred for the framers into everything they did. They moved this country from a capitalist republic to a socialist, marxist dystopia of oligarchs and oligopolies.

    These imbeciles actually pretend Jackson was one of them for political reasons. Jackson had a reputation for being a “man of the people” (mostly blue collar frontier individualists) and thus he fit into their political messaging strategy (at least his blue collar appeal) The individualist part they didn’t like so much. This is how biased and nasty they truly are. Their nastiness is also present in their oration skills. Even the academics born in the 50’s and early 60’s talk like losers. Don’t believe me. Listen to penrose or sowell, then listen to Sumner or krauss. Krauss is even worse than Sumner.

    That man can’t put together a coherent sentence while on stage. “I mean, like, I mean what I’m trying to say, okay the whole point is..I’m not going to go into that because of my feelings about philosophers…but you know…it’s just rational…like…”

    That’s a direct quote from Lawrence Krauss. And Sumner expects us to take these people seriously? He wants us to “trust them”

    No, thank you.

    The difference between those two generations (greatest and boomer) is the difference between goodness and truth, and falsity and evil. It’s that stark.

  23. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. June 2024 at 07:24

    Robert, You think Russia would refrain from using nuclear weapons if they were about to be defeated in a conventional war? Maybe, but I’d rather not take that risk.

    You said:

    “I don’t believe nuclear war would end life on Earth”

    Yeah, I agree. Just one or two billion dead. The Holocaust times 100.

    Edward, You said:

    “I’ve never heard anyone compare abortion to the holocaust”

    It happens frequently. Pro-life people frequently compare the number of aborted babies to the number of Jews killed by the Nazis.

    Lizard, “ROC claims over the South China Sea aren’t backed by any actions to actually enforce those claims”

    What?!?! Their military literally controls the largest island in the Spratly chain. It’s interesting that so few people even know this fact.

    “and also to use that control to influence the governance of other countries to install pro-Beijing regimes.”

    I don’t see a shred of evidence for this claim.

    Everyone, Sara’s final comment is like an SNL parody of a Sara comment.

  24. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    26. June 2024 at 07:33

    “Arilindo, Sure, I’d favor policies that preserved our ability to have access to key defense goods, perhaps subsidizing the building of fighters, warplanes, etc. But not EVs.”

    Scott I’ve already said this here once, try to absorb wisdom.

    BYD will be required to license Tesla Smarts – the computer, cameras, screens that hook standard OBD in cars. If you need to have this proven, Bezos just picked up the other US competitor to Tesla Smarts.

    CHINESE EVs are CHINESE SPY BALLOONS – but fortunately, it’s super easy to separate the smarts from the rest of the car.

    I can explain all the different plays coming, but the end game CONSUMER WISE here is that 10 years from now, you will be able to upgrade your used ICE or EV with all new Tesla Smarts – new cameras, new screens, new networked computer.

    Cars will be built with blank dashes, bc its INCREDIBLY DUMB to lock an already old computer into a complicated dash – it’s like putting smarts in TVs everyone ends up plugging a firestick into it 3-5 years later.


    THINK ABOUT Chinese EVs then as a standardized parts race to the bottom. Go shop for electric bikes! You’ll see what I mean.

    The motor is branded (and now starting to be guaranteed). The brakes are branded. Nobody cares about the bike brand.

    It seems pretty obvious with EVs we will move to platform standards that make fixing and improving EVs far easier. The prices should continue to fall. Meanwhile, the car smarts will be ever-improving – new smarts hardware every 2 years, new software every month.

    If this world US defense policy is that first-world countries can have Chinese cars, just not Chinese computers.

  25. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. June 2024 at 07:34

    And so Ricardo doesn’t even know when he’s lost:

  26. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    26. June 2024 at 09:14

    The belt and road initiative was a friendly rehearsal for when China can use hard power. Sri Lanka and Malaysia are examples.

  27. Gravatar of Justin Justin
    26. June 2024 at 09:26

    I see an advantage in requiring a portion of Chinese EVs to be made in America in partnership with domestic manufacturers. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I also find Morgan’s insistence on non-Chinese tech to be reasonable as well (perhaps not on a blanket basis, but perhaps as the default until proven otherwise on specific products).

    While this many incrementally raise the price of Chinese TVs, it benefits the US to have a competitive domestic vehicle industry, and if China has ‘left us in the dust’ we should try get get some of our competitive edge back!

    At the same time, China and America need to get on the same page on the Taiwan issue. There seems little chance of war outside of that one issue. I’d say a time limited formal defense alliance with Taiwan until the end of 2048, allowing time for chip manufacturing to diversify and Taiwan to figure out how to defend itself. Without the Taiwan issue, I’d be less worried about China capturing some of the US auto market (again, its good for us to have domestic auto manufacturing, but especially so if you might go to war with your main supplier).

  28. Gravatar of Robert Benkeser Robert Benkeser
    26. June 2024 at 09:46

    Huh. North Korea is sending troops to Ukraine. I wonder why China isn’t stopping that from happening…maybe because it’s all connected?

    Biden’s escalation management has utterly failed because we’re perceived as weak. Do we still think that we’re not on a road to WWIII? Ukraine’s valiant defense is the only thing allowing us to extend 1938, and we’re squandering the opportunity.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. June 2024 at 12:23

    Lizard, Don’t believe everything you read. China engages in foreign investment? So do we. Some of their projects don’t pan out—and many succeed? Ditto for the US.


    China is doing far more to help Africa develop than we are.

    Justin, You said:

    “I see an advantage in requiring a portion of Chinese EVs to be made in America in partnership with domestic manufacturers.”

    Even that would be a vast improvement over current policy.

    As for Taiwan, why not just move the entire country (including factories) to Vancouver Island?

    Robert, Wait, so now you assume that North Korea takes orders from China? That would be news to foreign policy experts.

    Yes, Biden is too weak on Ukraine, and Trump would be 100 times weaker.

Leave a Reply