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Economic Armaments and China’s Global Ambitions

The world continues to move in potentially dangerous directions. A leading component of this threat is the use of economic armaments by governments to gain political and market advantages in their foreign relations with other countries. Among the leading participants in the use of such economic armaments is the government of China.

First, what are “economic armaments”? In the 1930s, the term was used in reference to attempts for economic self-sufficiency. For instance, the Swiss classical liberal economist and political scientist William E. Rappard (1883–1958) gave the following definition in a 1936 lecture delivered in London titled “The Common Menace of Economic and Military Armaments”:

By economic armaments we mean all those legislative and administrative devices intended to restrict imports and develop domestic production with a view of reducing international interdependence. Economic armaments are the tools of economic nationalism. Economic nationalism may be defined as the policy of national self-sufficiency.…

As, in spite of all their efforts, all States must continue to import and as none can live on the charity of its neighbors, they must all continue to export in order to secure the foreign exchange necessary for the purchase abroad of what they lack at home. Economic nationalism therefore everywhere recommends both the promotion of exports and the restriction of imports.… Considered from that of the world community, economic nationalism is obviously a self-contradictory policy.

Clearly, today, there are few, if any, proponents of economic nationalism who propose that their respective nations follow a policy of national self-sufficiency. Fortunately, that economic irrationality has not yet experienced a rebirth.

Economic Weaponry for Import and Export Planning

But, nonetheless, governments do attempt to use various economic policy tools — economic weapons — to attain what they consider political and economic advantages for their own nation at the expense of their global rivals.

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