Trump uses the fake news of “intellectual property theft” to justify his tariff war on China. He boasts that he is going to stop the Chinese stealing that victimizes Americans. In yet another way, he will be the savior of Americans’ economic future, a savior who needs/deserves their votes and donations. He takes his cues from the televangelists.
Capitalist enterprises routinely buy, study, and copy parts of other companies’ products, especially those of their successful competitors. Economic theories stress that often such replication of successful competitors’ products and technologies is how enterprises survive. It is a regular part of capitalist competition and serves a social purpose of lowering average costs of production and thus prices to consumers.
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We are left with the question: why then pursue a strategy of trade wars to block intellectual property theft if it is mostly fake news? The answer has two parts. First, the accusation of intellectual property theft (often paired with “forced technology transfer”) amounts to a demand for better terms of access for US firms who want to produce and/or sell in China. If they must share their technology, for example, they want bigger shares of profitable joint ventures, etc. The Trump tariff war aims to coerce better terms from China for US companies active there. Trump expects and gets approval from US companies so long as they believe they may gain more from concessions forced on China than they lose from tariff-caused disruptions of their currently profitable global supply chains