Trading with China, continued

WTO: China presents problems, which are better dealt with in the world community than outside it.

February 10, 2000

CHINA'S rulers are not making it easier for Congress to authorize permanent normal trading relations or to welcome the country into the World Trade Organization.

Their latest paranoid fantasy is a set of tough regulations over what people may post on the Internet. "State secrets," which might include anything not authorized to be said, are banned.

As an experiment into whether censorship of e-mail and chat rooms is feasible, Beijing is performing a service for the police forces of the world. Americans understand how frustrating it is to try to keep child pornography and fraud out of cyberspace.

But the political control freaks of the Chinese Communist Party are doomed to fail. Panicked at political, religious or meditative independence, they nonetheless crave modernization.

They want consumerism, computers and higher standards of living. They relish commerce with the world and understand how the late Mao Tse-tung's isolationism set China back.

Nothing could be more subversive of Communist thought control in China than the free movement of people, goods and ideas. That is what the United States should pursue in forging relations with this giant power.

Other concerns are important. China is a nuclear power seeking to develop capability to intimidate Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. It wants to swallow Taiwan by threat rather than unify with it through free choice. While China cannot in a generation threaten the United States, it can harm U.S. interests in Asia now.

The military cooperation that has been a hallmark of Pentagon policy since the Reagan administration has made little sense since the Soviet threat receded. Enhancing China's military technology, while profitable to corporations, is contrary to the national interest.

But civilian trade is mutually beneficial. China's membership in the WTO should be determined by trade issues. Beijing made the concessions toward opening its economy that Washington demanded and seems to show good faith in fighting copyright piracy.

The way to thwart China's obsolete attempt at mind control is to sell its people more personal computers. Congress should get out of the way.

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