What's the difference between “give” and “take”? This is really a thought-provoking question.
A scene in “The Lord of the Rings 3,” which has deeply impressed me for many years, well answered the question. In the film, Frodo and Gollum are fighting each other to get the magic ring. Frodo’s life is at danger while dangling from a cliff. Sam comes to his rescue and says, “Give me your hand.” However, Frodo refuses. Sam then shouts, “Take my hand,” and this time Frodo accepts Sam’s help.
Always hoping to take from but seldom giving help to others may be a vivid portrait of the U.S. Government at present. Since taking power, U.S. President Donald Trump has been using tariffs as a baton to beat others and take benefits from countries worldwide.
In terms of its trade friction with China, the U.S. Government announced on May 29 that it would impose a 25 percent tariff on US$50 billion of goods imported from China. The unilateral statement totally goes against the trade consensus the two countries reached in Washington earlier.
China is just doing the opposite. China has proposed buying U.S. agricultural and energy products worth about US$70 billion, but only if Washington abandons its threat to slap tariffs on Chinese imports. The Chinese State Council has also decided to further cut tariffs of imported goods from other countries starting from July 1. Average tariff rates for clothes, shoes, hats, kitchenware and sports products will be reduced from the current 15.9 percent to 7.1 percent. Chinese commitment to cancel or ease restrictions on foreign investment in manufacturing sectors such as automobiles, shipping vessels and aircraft will also be implemented soon.
China is not the United States’ only target. The U.S. is even taking pains to use protectionist tariff policies to take benefits from allied countries all over the world. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on June 1 that his country would impose 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports from allies in Europe, Mexico and Canada. Such tariff hikes have aroused antagonism and drawn promises of tit-for-tat actions in Europe and other nations concerned. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned the U.S. Government against head-to-head with Europe, its biggest partner. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also expressed his dissatisfaction. “We cannot accept this. From a security perspective, it is very difficult to understand why tariffs would be imposed on Japan,” he said.
All countries, especially major economies, have the responsibility to maintain a fair, open and rule-based multilateral trade system. The U.S. always complains about its trade deficits with other nations. Nevertheless, such a structural problem relates not only to the current global value chain, but more importantly to the status of the U.S. dollar as a dominating global currency. Frankly speaking, its trade deficit is a result of its long-time offering of dollars to the rest of the world and cannot be resolved by simple tariff hikes and compulsorily taking benefits from others.
As a superpower, the United States also mistreats and takes advantage of North Korea while handling the Peninsula issue. As we all know, in bilateral negotiations, both parties should move towards the same goal, making concessions and showing sincerity. However, the U.S. wants to relieve its own security fears first with “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization by Pyongyang before giving the latter any security guarantee and economic assistance, while North Korea wants to denuclearize in stages with corresponding reciprocal actions from the U.S. side. Such a hegemonic way of taking another country’s facilities away without any guarantee will make the coming meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un not so optimistic.
A famous Chinese saying goes: “There is lingering fragrance in your hand when you give a rose to others as a gift.” According to dialectical materialism and Chinese philosophy, giving and taking are transformable and it is even better to give then to take.
By giving more to others, one may lose for the time being but will gain in the long run. Unlike businessmen who are profit-oriented, politicians and state leaders especially need such long-term vision and far-sightedness to steer their countries to sustainable development and future prosperity.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)