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China is Old News

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“That’s old news,” is a popular term often said in response to someone bringing up a slightly-dated or well-known topic of discussion. 

For example, saying, “We need agriculture to survive,” is old news. Another statement which could be referred to as old news is, “The U.S. is producing more beef with less cattle than ever before.” 

However, the topic of discussion I would like to focus on is China – and not the spy balloon – that’s old news.

In 1776, when the original U.S. Constitution was signed, sealed and delivered, our founding fathers wanted to break away from Britain, and more specifically, the British government. They dreamed of amber waves of grain, from sea to shining sea, free of relying on outside countries to provide their necessities. 

Nearly 250 years later, the U.S. has completely gone back on this, with imports coming in from Brazil, Vietnam, and of course, China.

According to the Library of Congress (LOC), in 1979, the U.S. and China reestablished diplomatic relations and signed a bilateral trade agreement. This started a rapid growth of trade between the two nations – from $4 billion worth of exports and imports during 1979 to over $600 billion in 2017. 

Today, Politico reports our two-way trade with China hit an all-time high in 2022, peaking at $690 billion. 

According to LOC, China’s exports to the U.S. are significantly higher than its imports from the U.S., and China is the largest holder of U.S. Treasury securities. To say we rely heavily on Chinese trade is old news. 

Another thing we can consider old news is just how fed up with Chinese trade many Americans are.

I think back to a conversation at my grandma and grandpa’s dinner table about a month ago. 

My grandma Joyce is notorious for going out of her way to purchase items labeled as “Made in America.” Who can blame her? She wants to support the American economy. 

Grandma made a beautiful supper one evening while I was in Texas, and after everyone’s bellies were full, we passed the toothpick holder around the table.

My grandpa’s toothpick broke, and he teased my grandma about buying “cheap” toothpicks. She responded that no, she did not purchase cheap toothpicks, as they were in fact reasonably priced and made in the U.S., unlike the other boxes of toothpicks at the grocery store.

Grandpa changed his tune upon hearing this and said, “Well good, the last thing I want is a splinter from China between my teeth.” 

Those of us around the table chuckled and the subject was changed, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. 

How is it we have let ourselves, as a country, rely on China’s imports so much so my grandma has to go out of her way to search for American-made toothpicks? Furthermore, why weren’t these toothpicks the cheapest option? 

They had a lesser distance to travel, and honestly, they weren’t as great of quality as the container of toothpicks sitting on my table’s trivet. 

Call me crazy for being hung up on something as simple as a toothpick, but something’s not right here. This minor toothpick incident is a prime example of larger trade issues with China. 

If they’ve got a handle on the splinters we use to pick our teeth, what’s to stop them from controlling larger areas of the food and fiber industries? Say, owning Smithfield Foods? 

But who am I kidding? This fact, evidently, is not talked about anymore – it’s old news.

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