There are lots of reasons why it makes sense to approve permanent trade relations with China, but the most important is a moral one. We will further the cause of religious and political freedom there by encouraging and strengthening the free market.
We can do that by passing the China trade bill, which will end the annual extension of trade relations between our two countries and pave the way for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The positive message that its passage will send is that Americans want to help expand free-market capitalism and entrepreneurship in China. We want to help the Chinese people climb the economic ladder out of dire poverty and become one of the world’s prosperous free economies, because when people have more economic and personal financial freedom they will become empowered to demand other things, such as the freedom to choose their political leaders.
This is really what is at stake in the House vote this week: spreading American-style, freedom-to-choose, free-market capitalism throughout China as a first step in its gradual but inevitable transition to democracy. That is what this bill is all about.
Ask Taiwan’s leaders. All of them strongly support the China trade bill and China’s prospective membership in the WTO because they know something much more important comes with trade than just goods, services and foreign investment. And that is the ideas, symbols, culture, literature and technology of freedom. They want to encourage this economic process because they know it will lead to the day when the two Chinas will have democratic, capitalist systems. And that will bring about their unification.
Ask House Republican Whip Tom DeLay. He is one of the toughest critics of China’s human rights abuses, but he also says “this bill is about exporting American values.”
These values are embedded in everything we produce and sell. In our John Deere tractors, our IBM computers, our Microsoft software, in our movies (such as “Braveheart”), in our literature and music and in thousands of other great American products and great American companies that want to do business in China.
Ask Pat Robertson and other visionary religious leaders who see free markets and increased trading opportunities as the best way to spread religious freedom and the Gospel among the Chinese people.
Ask courageous Chinese dissident leaders such as Bao Tong, who has endured human rights abuses in China, but who says passing the trade bill and joining WTO will bring his nation under the economic rules and standards it will need to abide by if it is to succeed in the global economy. “It is obvious this is a good thing,” Mr. Bao told John Pomfret of The Washington Post. “It doesn’t make sense to use trade as a lever. It just doesn’t work.”
Ask Dai Qing, another prominent dissident leader in Beijing. “All of the fights for a better environment, labor rights and human rights these fights we will fight in China tomorrow. But first we must break the monopoly of the state. To do that, we need a freer market and the competition mandated by the WTO,” he says.
Of course, the dramatically increased export business we will do with China under much lower tariffs will be good for us, too. It will be good for farmers, who will be able to sell more beef, pork, poultry, fruits, vegetables and grains. It will be good for U.S. manufacturing industries when China eliminates all tariffs on computers, telecommunications equipment, semiconductors and other high-tech consumer products. For example, tariffs on American cars will be cut from 100 percent to 25 percent in six years.
And there is more. Under the U.S. trade agreement recently worked out, China will open its economy to our insurance, banking, hotel and retail industries. More American movies will be shown.
Perhaps the most promising opening will be in technology, especially the Internet and wireless telecommunications the technology of freedom. Last year, according to CEO Richard McGinn of Lucent Technologies: “China had 2 million Internet addresses. Today, it has 9 million. Each year, China adds the infrastructure equivalent of a large U.S. regional telephone company.”
By the end of this year, China “will become the second-largest market for PCs and telecommunications systems, and the third-largest for semiconductors. Soon it will be the largest market for Internet infrastructure as well,” Mr. McGinn says. “These markets are expected to grow by 20 percent to 40 percent a year over the next 15 years.”
You don’t think China’s authoritarian government will allow free use of the Internet? Well, they’re fighting it, but it is like trying to turn back the tide. The Internet is growing much stronger and more ubiquitous than government regulators.
Here is a sample from the Internet bulletin board www.sina.com, one of China’s most popular Web sites: “Taiwan’s democratic election is a good example for us. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] should learn from the KMT [Taiwan’s Nationalist Party].”
The ability to send messages like this in China is the reason why the United States needs to help broaden its growing Internet market with our newest laptops and software technology. These products will not only help expand China’s private economy, they will also serve the cause of freedom at the same time.
Certainly, we should have no illusions about China. They are competitors and adversaries, economically as well as militarily. But by helping China move more quickly to a full-fledged capitalist economy, we can empower the Chinese people to follow the example set by Taiwan.
A vote to grant China permanent trading status will move us one giant step closer to that history-making day.
Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.