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San Francisco Invites Chinese Solar Companies as U.S. Companies Fail

By Peter Navarro

(Republished from the SFGate.com - Published 7:53 p.m., Tuesday, October 23, 2012)

San Francisco is rapidly becoming, as the Office of the Mayor's website has touted, the "premier gateway" for mainland Chinese investment into the United States. If the city's successful wooing of Chinese solar manufacturers is any indication, this is not a welcome trend.

To date, under the leadership of both its previous and current mayor, no fewer than five Chinese solar companies have set up shop on San Francisco soil. This has occurred even as Bay Area solar manufacturers have either filed for bankruptcy (NovaSolar); shrunk in value to a mere shadow of their former selves (NanoSolar); or, in the unkindest cut of all, been sold off to China (MiaSole).


China is trouncing America in industries like solar, wind and steel for one simple reason - it cheats on a scale unprecedented in modern economic history. In solar's case, the Chinese government has showered its national champions with lavish subsidies, which are illegal under international trade law. These subsidies have, in turn, led to a huge over-capacity now spurring predatory Chinese manufacturers to sell solar panels into U.S. markets at margins ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent below fair value - crushing many U.S. competitors in the process.

This is not mere opinion. These statements are based on an extensive investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission. The ITC will vote on Nov. 7 on adopting countervailing duties and imposing antidumping tariffs on Chinese solar imports. And yes, at least five of the Chinese companies lured to the Bay Area with promises of breaks on city fees and assistance in taking advantage of federal, state and local tax credits have been identified as major cheaters; these include China Sunergy, Suntech, Trina, Upsolar and Yingli.

Predictably, the ITC's proposed action is opposed by special interest groups like the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. In part a front group for Chinese manufacturers, CASE is also the main lobbying arm for those self-interested U.S. installers now helping China dump its illegally subsidized panels and modules into the retail market - economic patriotism be damned.

CASE repeatedly waves the bloody shirt of a possible trade war with China - conveniently ignoring the fact we are already in one. CASE also whines that the price of solar will go up - as if that's an excuse for China decimating the U.S. solar manufacturing industry. CASE even disingenuously blames falling natural gas prices and other factors for putting U.S. companies out of business rather than the inexorable crush of China's cheating.

Of course, San Francisco is not the only city welcoming the very Chinese companies that are so busily putting so many Americans out of work. I've seen such shortsighted behavior even in those manufacturing states most negatively affected by China's flood of illegally subsidized exports.

A poster child for this mind-numbing myopia is Toledo, Ohio, where the mayor has been busily selling off some of the city's prime waterfront property to Chinese investors. And so the selling off - and selling out - of America goes.

What ever happened to our sense of national unity? As consumers, we merrily buy our Made in China products at prices drenched in the sweat, blood and fears of Chinese workers. As shareholders, we pile our savings into companies like Boeing, Caterpillar and GM that greedily offshore our future to Shanghai. Even as our politicians eagerly solicit Chinese investment to auction off more and more pieces of America, many unemployed workers cast their ballots based more on social issues rather than their own economic best interests. It's a collective national suicide eagerly assisted by a mercantilist Chinese government, and it's time to stop this insanity.

Peter Navarro is director of the documentary film "Death by China" and a public policy professor at UC Irvine. www.deathbychina.com.

This article appears in another form at the SFGate.com.




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