Although everyone is supposed to benefit when individual countries leverage their comparative advantages, this canonical economic theory can run into problems when blindly applied to the real world. In the case of China, American leaders failed to consider why the country exhibits the strengths that it does.

In this op-ed for Project Syndicate, Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson argue that the repressive Chinese policies underpinning its “comparative advantage” in manufacturing have come at the expense of American workers. The US needs to center the interests of workers in its international economic policy, including disrupting supply chain links to nondemocratic countries like China, hastening the transition to a carbon-neutral economy, and investing in pro-worker technologies.