- - Wednesday, November 11, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden won by renting a platform from left-wing Democrats and then going awfully vague on how he will address the nation’s existential challenges — pandemics, climate change mitigation and China.

We can stop COVID-19 if Mr. Biden and his Cabinet submit to well-publicized vaccinations to overcome public distrust, and marshal aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantining similar to Asian nations.

The insurgent epidemic in Europe demonstrates our failures were not merely President Trump’s poor leadership, but will the media searching for new targets to lampoon allow Mr. Biden to impose tough measures? And is he so inclined?

China’s superior performance lays bare the efficacy of its autocratic brand of state-directed capitalism and shortcomings of the West.

After 13 tested positive in Qingdao, 10 million were tested within five days. That’s not something our government — even with Mr. Biden’s Science First and the CDC restored — could accomplish. The same goes for Angela Merkel’s well-oiled German machine.

Unlike high-tech contact tracing and quarantining, these logistical inadequacies cannot be dismissed as a civil liberties issue — it’s a state competency problem.

California lacks the resources to even adequately handle rising temperatures — and ferocious annual wildfires — and New Orleans, Miami, lower Manhattan and other economically critical areas face more frequent flooding. Mr. Biden’s fracking ban won’t fix those.

China’s GDP will rise about 2% this year. Following a short recovery, G7 economies will fall 4% and risk another financial crisis. Wuhan, where it all began, is now a tourist mecca celebrating its triumph.

China’s path to wealth, and the challenge to the West, was not built on state control of private lives, a drag on innovation and initiative — but rather the energy of companies like Tencent, Huawei and Alibaba. Protection from Western competitors helped but Beijing’s five-year plans focus its private sector on a mission — to overtake America.

By contrast, American Big Tech is burdened by jealousy and abuse from Washington.

Chinese drivers may choose from 138 models of electric vehicles, the Europeans 68 and the Americans only 17 — and Tesla produces the exciting domestic entries. Ford, GM and the Asian transplants spend billions on R&D, but they offer little more than antiques that run on gasoline. Yet, they have been subsidized and protected just like the Chinese.

California’s 2035 mandate that all new cars be electric could usher in the ultimate Chinese conquest — West Coast progressives driving cars designed and manufactured in the Middle Kingdom. GM and Ford could end up like Jeep — its remnants are now owned by a foreign automaker. But with the United Auto Workers’ political propaganda morphed to suit the socialist vernacular of its members’ new employers.

The sorry stories of GM and Ford are repeated across the industrial and materials sector. Technology companies have risen to about 40% of the S&P 500 from just 21% seven years ago, whereas the former are around 12%.

Dominance in high tech will be the final battlefield for economic supremacy with China.

We subsidize R&D and innovation through the tax structure. The benefits are similar to those offered by China. Beijing sets out a broad plan but lets the entrepreneurs target domestic and international market opportunities. And the founders of Alibaba, Huawei and others are able to get rich without ridicule and political recrimination.

U.S. private equity invests in startups to reap big capital gains when those go public or are bought out by Big Tech. Now Mr. Biden, if his campaign promises are to be believed, wants to tax capital gains at a top rate of 39.6% plus the 3.8% excise tax on investment income. Add a wealth tax, higher taxes on corporate profits, estate taxes, taxing heirs on unrealized gains and California’s top levy of 13.3%, why would anyone risk a nickel on innovation?

Democrats in the House want to limit Big Tech from buying startups and perhaps bust them up altogether.

China is turning its wealth to co-opting international institutions that multilateralists like Mr. Biden worship — consider the WHO fronting for China’s COVID-19 disinformation campaign. It is building a military capable of imposing a Second Punic War humiliation on America — after that tussle with Rome, Carthage was reduced to a vassal existence.

Perhaps Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could cut to the chase — negotiate a capitulation agreement with Beijing that appoints a regent for Mr. Biden. Who needs the charade if the new administration is not serious about anything other than taxing the rich to finance social justice.

• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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