Why does he say predatory? Krugman explains:
Right now, China is following a policy that is, in effect, one of imposing high tariffs and providing large export subsidies — because that’s what an undervalued currency does. That should be a violation of trade rules; it might in fact be a violation, but the language of the law is vague on the subject. But leave aside the fine print of the law for a moment: what China is doing amounts to a seriously predatory trade policy, the kind of thing that is supposed to be prevented by the threat of sanctions.I have no intention of debating Krugman on what China might be doing, and that would include "undervaluing" its currency. It seems to me that China is doing what the old Mercantilists advocated hundreds of years ago.
Furthermore, I don't doubt that producers around the world resent the Chinese trade strategy. Nonetheless, from an economic point of view, China is not making itself wealthier by pursuing these policies. If there are victims, they are the Chinese people themselves.
It is one thing to say that such a policy can be disruptive to world trade and certainly make life more difficult for manufacturers in other countries, but it is quite another to claim that the Chinese policies will make China better off any more than export subsidies given by the U.S. Government are good for the U.S. economy. In fact, the actual effect is to make U.S. consumers better off, but at the expense of Chinese workers.
Peter Schiff, in this speech given in 2009, laid out this point, noting that right now, the Chinese are working, but we Americans get the goods, paying for them with green pieces of paper. Obviously, this is not a relationship that will continue, and sooner or later, as Schiff notes, the Chinese are going to be able to "keep their stuff."
When I think of predatory actions, I think of one group of people taking something from others, and not paying for it. Think of the U.S. invasion of oil-rich Iraq or the police in this country committing literal highway robbery in the name of "asset forfeiture." Now, THOSE actions are predatory in every sense of the word.
However, China is not invading our country (sending goods here that we purchase voluntarily is NOT an "invasion"), nor is it engaging in anything close to acts of war, yet Krugman calls for economic sanctions against China. That is ridiculous. While I don't support what the Chinese Government is doing, I believe that its Mercantialism actually is more harmful to China than it is to other countries.