Normal trade relations is right China policy

Clinton: Dealing with a Communist great power is serious business, with frustrations.

June 06, 1999

WHEN Gov. George W. Bush of Texas finally came off the fence on an issue it was, rightly and responsibly, to endorse President Clinton's decision to renew normal trade relations with China for another year. He was echoed by another Republican candidate for president, Elizabeth H. Dole.

Governor Bush is the son of the president whose China policy President Clinton is extending. Mrs. Dole as a cabinet secretary supported that policy. Although Congress will be tempted to overturn President Clinton's decision for a number of reasons -- some genuine -- quick reactions by these leading Republicans made it a policy issue, not a partisan bash.

Normal trade relations, a more accurate term than the previous "most favored nation," is the tariff level the United States extends to most of the world. To single China out for something worse, for domestic politics, would compromise the U.S. interest in a stable world far into the 21st century.

China may or may not be friendly or democratic in coming decades. It will be huge and dynamic. It possesses great human capital in skills and education. It is Communist, suspicious and creating a greater world role to which it believes itself entitled.

That is all the more reason to treat China with respect and caution. This nation is in the midst of a spy scare fanned by a House committee led by California Republican Rep. Christopher Cox. China is clearly trying to leapfrog its weapons development. Helping it do so ceased to be good U.S. policy after the Soviet Union collapsed, but the Bush and Clinton administrations failed to notice.

Although there is anger at China's trade balance, the need now is to make it worse, by curtailing lucrative transfers of U.S. technology that would enhance China's weapons development. While grousing at China's exports, it is worth noting that China has cooperated with the U.S. Treasury in not devaluing its currency, despite great pressure to do so.

It has been 10 years since valiant Chinese students demonstrating for democracy on Tiananmen Square were crushed. Since then, the aged rulers of China made a deal with the people. They have given the people no political rights but opened the economy to private ambition and left them privacy. What remains is a Communist government of a non-Communist society. Only the ancients in Beijing believe this can last.

When it comes time to consider President Clinton's latest policy move, members of Congress of both parties should think of the U.S. interest for the long haul. In extending normal trading relations, President Clinton did just that.

Pub Date: 6/06/99

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