“We continue to raise concerns about the general climate in China for U.S. businesses,” Mr. Lew said Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “They need the innovation that comes from foreign companies, they need the economic activity that comes from foreign companies, and they’re going to have to make a choice on how they manage this set of obstacles.”Of those obstacles, he added, “some are formal in the form of laws, and some are informal in the form of bureaucratic complexity.”Mr. Lew’s relatively strong criticism on business conditions contrasts with his more favorable view of other, more successful economic engagement with China in the past seven years.Zhu Haiquan, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said the “Chinese government is fully engaged in an all-round reform which will also serve as a strong guarantee for an improved foreign investment environment in China.”
Public criticism from Lew points to an ominous trend. In the past, the economic relationship between China and the U.S. has been strong enough to offset political disputes. Increasingly, that is not the case on the U.S. side. Companies doing business outside China are struggling to compete with China’s heavily-subsidized enterprises. Meanwhile, companies doing business inside China have been complaining about a stifling regulatory environment. On Friday, Apple was told it may have to stop selling the latest model of the iPhone because of alleged copyright infringement.Whether Clinton or Trump wins in November, it appears that U.S.-China relations will be on a downhill slide and that the American business community will be less likely to rush to China’s defense.Panda huggers may soon be almost as rare as pandas.