Stephen Olson

Stephen Olson is writer based in Hong Kong, where he is a research fellow of the Hinrich Foundation.

Recent Articles

Trade, People, and Money: Understanding China's Unique Capabilities

Remaking China in the American image is a non-starter, but the West needs to negotiate a mutually acceptable accommodation with China’s very different economic system.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
The Trump administration is forcefully pressing its case on a variety of Chinese trade practices that it views as unfair or discriminatory. Successive rounds of punitive tariffs have been implemented, with more potentially to come. These may or may not have their intended effect, and could lead to wider conflict. Although there has been no shortage of criticism of the tariffs (both in the United States and beyond), even their staunchest critics have frequently acknowledged that many of the United States’ grievances are legitimate. In fact, the European Union, Japan, and other trade partners have voiced many of the same concerns for years. There is a growing sense that China is not “playing by the rules” and that its practices of state-led and subsidized economic development need to be addressed one way or the other. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, it is now clear that the impact of China’s 2001 entry into the global trade system via the World Trade...

Trade: The Big Picture

We need a whole new understanding of our goals for the trading system and for America’s interests within it.

AP Photo/Nick Ut
In the wake of the announcement on steel and aluminum tariffs, and complaints against China’s thefts of intellectual property, the trade discussion emphasizes a U.S. administration perceived as alarmingly protectionist; and the risks of a damaging trade war between the U.S. and China, and perhaps globally. But the real problem is much broader: a multilateral trade system is seen as moribund, unable to meaningfully reduce barriers and effectively adjudicate disputes. And there is growing unease about the overall state of economic globalization. Related questions include: Is the U.S. undermining the WTO, and if so what are the implications? What are the consequences of the US withdrawal from the TPP, and possible withdrawal from NAFTA? All of these items are merely symptoms of four fundamental underlying issues, which have been slowly coming to a head for years and in some cases decades: 1. The existing trade architecture is deeply flawed. Our current trade system is incapable of...