China knocks on the door

Landmark decision: Soon the world's biggest population will join fully in the global economy.

September 10, 2001

FINALLY, China expects the World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva this week to decide on its admission to the global economy.

Some tariff reductions and increases in trade have already begun, in anticipation of that happening in early 2002.

This movement coincides with diplomatic activity. China's foreign minister is coming to Washington this month to help prepare a state visit there by President Bush in October.

China does not agree to U.S. national missile defense, and the Bush administration has not accepted Chinese missile modernization, but each is willing to discuss the other's ideas.

Though China and Taiwan don't formally talk, their two finance ministers managed to meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Suzhou, China.

Taiwan wants to open direct trade, transport and mail service with the mainland and to negotiate it within the framework of the WTO, ignoring difficulties of diplomatic nonrecognition.

Taiwan is tentatively altering its ban on visits from mainlanders to encourage package tours to resorts, which desperately want to receive them, as long as the numbers don't get out of hand.

Previously, Taipei assumed that any visiting mainlander would be a Communist bent on subversion and conquest.

All these developments make open hostility with the world's biggest population and most dynamic economy less likely, though not impossible.

The more China is roped into the global economy, the less attractive conflict becomes to all sides.

None of these developments cures what's wrong with China. This includes suppression of political dissent and religion, mindless persecution of the Falun Gong meditation and exercise movement, and suppression of Tibetan culture.

This development does nothing to alleviate the dire poverty in inland rural areas and some 5,000 deaths a year to miners working in grossly unsafe conditions.

But bringing China into the world economy does not sweep these things under the rug. Quite the reverse.

It opens up more dialogue in both directions through modern communications that cannot be stopped or controlled.

The Bush administration's opening to China, with each side sticking to its position on several disputes, is the right policy for this country and the world.

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