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You have to give Tim Cook credit for sheer gall, at least if a recent report is true (as it appears to be, since it he hasn’t yet denied it). There was the Apple, Inc. CEO in 2018, at a forum in Beijing no less, in effect warning former President Donald Trump to ditch his plans to impose America’s first ever serious tariffs on Chinese goods, largely because “What I’ve seen over my lifetime is that countries that embrace openness, that embrace trade, that embrace diversity are the countries that do exceptional — and the countries that don’t, don’t.”

And not two years before, according to this account, Cook had promised China that over the next five years, the infotech giant would make a $275 billion effort to strengthen the People’s Republic’s technology and manufacturing base if China’s thug regime would back off a major crackdown it had launched on the company’s massive Chinese operations.

Moreover, as made clear in the December 7 article in TheInformation.com, Cook’s commitments not only have inevitably and massively affected U.S. and China trade and broader economic flows, and will continue to do so going forward. They’re likely to endanger America’s national security. After all, Cook, for reasons having squadoosh to do with free trade or free markets or economic fundamentals, evidently pledged to

>invest “many billions of dollars more” than what the company was already spending annually in China: in part on building new research and development centers”;

>help Chinese manufacturers develop “the most advanced manufacturing technologies” and “support the training of high-quality Chinese talents”;

>collaborate on technology with Chinese universities and directly invest in Chinese tech companies”; and

>collaborate on technology with Chinese universities and directly invest in Chinese tech companies”;

>use more components from Chinese suppliers in its devices”; and 

>give business to Chinese software firms”.

Since every economic and academic entity in China is ultimately under the thumb of the Chinese government, Cook’s submission to Beijng’s pressure has made enormous amounts of resources and knowhow available to a Chinese regime that has challenged American security interests in East Asia and around the world, and that powerfully threatens Washington’s ability to protect Americans’ privacy and political freedoms through its increasingly impressive hacking and other surveillance capabilities (including via the wildly popular TikTok video-sharing app).

In the worst (but ever more plausible) case, in a future conflict with Beijing, Chinese weapons that kill U.S servicemen could be partly and/or indirectly financed and developed by Apple – and, as I’ve made clear, e.g., here and here, by the numerous other U.S. companies that have fueled China’s tech and therefore military prowess.

But also crucial to point out – the deal signed by Cook (far from the only target of China’s successful campaigns of forced tech and manufacturing production transfer over a period stretching back decades), also challenges a core idea of free trade theory in a way first pointed out by friend John Carney of Breitbart.com.

As Carney wrote more than two years ago, economists and others who were crticizing Trump’s tariffs were making an especially important mistake. They were assuming “that all of the goods that are imported from China are made there because China is the lowest cost manufacturer of those goods. If that were true, moving production out of China would necessarily increase costs of production and reduce efficiency.”

But as he proceeded to remind, China couldn’t be such a paragon of manufacturing value. If it were, why would Beijing have been relying for so long on such a wide variety of “mercantilist tactics to attract and retain manufacturing business from global businesses, including requiring companies to manufacture goods in China in order to access its domestic markets and imposing steep tariffs on imports for foreign-made goods”?

In fact, Carney continued, “China’s policies…impose what economists call ‘deadweight losses’ on the global economy by preventing companies from moving their supply chains to cheaper sources.” And tariffs can serve as an essential counter-weight. 

Apple is nothing if not public relations-obsessed, and several years ago responded to public concern about all its production in the People’s Republic with an ad campaign stressing that its products are “designed in California.”  At least for accuracy’s sake, the company should now add “and extorted by China.”  And the news should greatly energize Washington’s efforts to stop U.S. companies from strengthening and enriching this burgoning menace.