Decoupling pressure will damage US companies

Workers assemble a vehicle at Tesla's Shanghai factory. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

One day after Tesla Inc announced plans to open a Megapack battery factory in Shanghai, the Republican chair of the House of Representatives' select committee on China expressed concerns over what he sees as the electric carmaker's dependency on China. "I'm concerned about this," Mike Gallagher said in an interview on Monday, adding that he would engage with Tesla and other companies that currently operate in China.

The interference in a company's normal business deals in disregard of free market norms reveals how some paranoia-driven US politicians are ready to go to extremes in order to sever trade and economic ties between China and the United States.

Tesla has already achieved huge success in China, with its Shanghai electric vehicles factory accounting for more than half of the company's global production in 2022. According to the plans Tesla announced on Sunday, the new battery factory would initially produce 10,000 Megapack units a year, equal to around 40 gigawatt hours of energy storage, and complement the huge existing Shanghai plant. With the new operation, Tesla hopes to take advantage of China's world-leading battery supply chain to increase output and lower the costs of its Megapack lithium-ion battery units to meet the rising global demand.

Yet such win-win business deals are a thorn in the eyes of ideologically-motivated US politicians, who see China as a strategic competitor to the US that must be countered by any means and on all fronts, be it economic, technological or military. Actually, the China select committee, which Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy created in January, takes it as its mission to "selectively decouple" the US and Chinese economies in strategic industries.

For those US companies that refuse to comply with the decoupling demand, Gallagher said he could require their executives to testify if his investigation into their corporate ties with China were hampered. "If we reach roadblocks and we get to a point where lawyers are getting involved with answers, that's when you start to think about subpoenas," he said. Gallagher had already met last week in California with technology and entertainment companies including Apple, Google and Disney about their business dealings in China.

His unveiled threat cannot but remind people of the period of McCarthyism during the 1950s — only this time it is not Hollywood but the businesses that constitute the most vibrant part of the US economy today that are being targeted. As it did with Joe McCarthy, history will prove the absurdity of these US politicians and their decoupling attempts.