To the extent that imports from China — or Mexico, which sells almost three times as much to the United States — reduce the cost of auto manufacturing, and hence the price of cars, they may help create more American jobs than they cost.
The fact is that China has plenty of ways to retaliate when this country protects specific industries; on balance, that retaliation may cost more American jobs. Even if China does not retaliate, the higher production costs and higher consumer prices that trade protection imposes are not evenly distributed. Protectionist measures may “save” jobs for higher-paid workers at the expense of those who make less. These are the sorts of nuances and trade-offs to which we hope the winner of this election will pay more attention. Though the United States and China are competing for global market share, avoiding an actual trade war is very much in both nations’ interest.