U.S. must end China's rulers' free pass
FROM: Politico, Feb. 13, 2012
Free pass for China's rulers must end
By: Scott Paul
February 13, 2012 09:25 PM EST
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to be China’s next president, arrives in Washington on Tuesday. The Obama administration and international business community are ready to go out of their way to make sure his visit is free of public controversy. But Xi should not leave the United States without knowing there is deep dissatisfaction with his government’s policies — and our government’s tepid response.
U.S. voters believe China’s economy is stronger than ours. They are worried about the role China could play in determining our future. They hear talk about an America that may be in relative decline. Yet they are told not to worry.
We shouldn’t fear China’s citizens. But we should be worried about the actions of its authoritarian — and, yes, still communist — regime that tightly controls the People’s Republic. And we should be downright terrified by some of our own leaders’ attitudes toward China.
True, Washington periodically lashes Beijing verbally about its human rights practices. But most U.S. policies bolster a regime that is undemocratic, brutal to its critics and bullying to trade partners.
It’s not like China needs the help. It is growing at an astonishing pace. In the past few years alone, China topped the U.S. in manufacturing output, Germany in exports and Japan in economic size. It now wields more than $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves.
The U.S. just recorded the largest-ever trade deficit with China — a whopping $295.5 billion last year. It is only a matter of time until China passes the U.S. to be the world’s largest economy.
Today, we are in a serious race with China over supercomputing, innovation and anti-satellite weapons technology. China is not merely the key U.S. supplier of cheap toys, clothing and electronics: Its government is also one of our foreign financiers. China achieved this status by defying the free market and its international obligations toward more open trade and investment.
China is also learning from our history. Beijing knows why past U.S. competitors collapsed. Our Cold War victory over the Soviet Union required a bipartisan effort on defense and economic issues. We linked trade to free emigration and human rights and shone a bright light on abhorrent practices through a law known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
History didn’t do in the Soviet Union. A sustained and aggressive strategy did. China engaged our business and political elites — and seduced them into believing these policies were no longer necessary.
With China, there has been no George F. Kennan, no President John F. Kennedy, no Jackson-Vanik, no Ronald Reagan. There has been no strategy, no effort to prevail economically.
Critics of China are decidedly uncool — cast as xenophobes, hawks and protectionists, though our positions are entirely in line with prevailing (and correct) U.S. efforts to promote American ideals while expanding our economy.
No one is suggesting that China is an enemy and we should just update our Cold War strategies. No one can accurately define what China’s intentions are in terms of foreign policy or defense. But on the economic front, the lessons of the past are instructive: We need a plan.
We’re dependent on China for much of U.S. production — even militarily critical technologies. One can argue that our public and trade debts help to finance the Chinese military and censorship machine.
U.S. companies, desperate to reach China’s 1 billion-plus consumers, just give in. They help to censor, to oppress and to exploit. They accept terrible terms for trade and investment. They also give up proprietary technology.
Apple and Google may be iconic U.S. brands. But they deserve scorn for their coddling of brutality in China. Exploited Foxconn workers, who assemble things like the iPad, must now sign a pledge that they will not commit suicide. Google allows the Chinese government to censor its search engine. Other U.S. companies have helped to build the architecture of the “Great Firewall” that seeks to block ideas from reaching Chinese citizens.
Multinational manufacturers in China are often apologists for Chinese economic policies because in the short term they benefit from the status quo — even if such policies harm America’s long-term economic strength.
Our children will live with the consequences: a monstrous trade and public debt to China; an expensive strategic competition in the Pacific, in space and around the developing world; and the validation of a dangerous idea that a nation can be successful through a combination of censorship, brutality and mercantilism, as opposed to the U.S. ideal of democracy, human rights and a rules-based, open economy.
The developing world — representing the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants — is looking to see who wins. In America, it sees a fractured political system, a slow-growth economy and enormous public, private and trade debts. In China, it sees the opposite.
President Barack Obama can shake hands with Xi. But we must also hold his government to account for its currency manipulation, mercantilism and gross violations of trade obligations that are robbing us of jobs and wealth.
Scott Paul is executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.