Just in time to avoid a nasty trade war that would be detrimental to both countries, the United States and China have signed a pact to stop China's notorious pirating of American patents, copyrights and trade secrets -- all at an estimated cost of $800 million a year. In return, the United States has canceled threatened retaliation through 100 percent tariffs against $1.5 billion worth of Chinese imports. American consumers, with access to cheaper goods, are big winners in the agreement.
In a wider context, the accord avoids another stormy chapter in relations between these two giant powers. President Bush is now in position to push for an extension of "most favored nation" trading arrangements (actually "normal" trading arrangements) with China against the opposition of lawmakers who want the Beijing regime punished for the Tiananmen Square massacre 2 1/2 years ago.
If China follows up with added trade reforms and draws closer to international organizations that set the rules for world commerce and finance, this will not necessarily mean Beijing will stop its harsh repression of democracy advocates and its violations of human rights. But it will be a victory of sorts for Mr. Bush's contention that interaction, rather than isolation, is the best way over the long run to promote freedom in China.