It’s no secret that Wall Street hated President Trump’s aggressive trade tactics toward China. But its executives are very happy with the financial services section of the recently signed “phase one” deal that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin negotiated with China.
Instead of holding China accountable for exploiting American capital markets, “phase one” of the deal will make sure American capital continues to directly fund China’s state-run economy. American financing will increase to state-owned enterprises like China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, which produces about 80 percent of the Chinese Navy’s main equipment, and Hikvision, whose products Beijing uses to surveil Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Another appalling example of how good this part of the deal is for China is the provision authorizing American financial companies to purchase Chinese nonperforming loans. These are loans that the borrower is struggling to pay off. This makes them a favorite of Chinese state-owned enterprises and other companies with large capital expenditures but little revenue growth expected in the near term.
A majority of Chinese nonperforming loans go to state-owned enterprises. In the past, when a Chinese bank struggled with financing nonperforming loans on its books, Beijing had to bail it out with Chinese money. But now, under this deal, American savings can do it.
The rising number of nonperforming loans has been a problem in China’s economy; last year ended with almost the highest percentage of loans outstanding in over a decade. President Trump’s tariffs were having a real effect on the Chinese economy. It brought its leaders to the table to deal with vital issues like China’s theft of American intellectual property and its blocking of market access for American manufacturers. But now this part of the “deal” with China throws open the gates to American capital. They now get to keep up their exploitation, with our money.
For decades, China has used Wall Street’s hunger for profit to lure American capital into a trap: the Communist Party’s clear intent of displacing the United States as the world’s economic and military superpower. This “deal” will result in American capital flowing to the government-owned companies that China props up to undermine our country. This is not a win.
Investing American capital in China may earn better returns in the short term. But it will come at a tremendous cost in the long term.
American dollars aren’t being invested in Chinese companies that succeed based on their honest business model and ability to grow. They are being invested in companies that exist to serve a Chinese Communist Party intent on undermining America, human rights and religious liberty.
Allowing the savings of Americans to be linked to the success of the Chinese government and Communist Party is a grave error we will come to regret. Beijing’s state planners couldn’t have written the financial services section better if they tried. They’ll get to finance their industrial ambitions with the deepest, most liquid capital markets in the world — our own.
Policymakers in Washington, who were once naïve about China’s exploitation of our capital markets and the American-led global order, are now giving the financial relationship between the United States and Beijing the scrutiny it rightly deserves. For instance, the bipartisan Equitable Act, which I introduced, would delist Chinese companies that do not comply with American laws and regulations for financial transparency and accountability from United States exchanges.
Finding a peaceful and workable path forward for United States-China relations is the defining geopolitical issue of this century, and President Trump deserves credit for getting the Chinese to the negotiating table. However, the financial services section of the “phase one” deal could undermine the significant progress the agreement makes on other priorities.
As the Trump administration negotiates “phase two,” we must grapple with this challenge by enacting a pro-American industrial and financial policy that puts American capital to work for American workers, their skills and our development.
Marco Rubio is a Republican senator from Florida.