- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

On June 13, the United States and the rest of the Western world will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the removal of the Berlin Wall. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union were seminal events in world history and a fitting end to what was the American century.

For decades, our foreign policy relied on strong international leadership backed by scientific ingenuity embodied in the tip of a ballistic missile. It was our unwavering commitment to freedom and confidence in our ideals that helped seal the victory over communism. Although our ideals and our commitment are the same today, clearly the tools of freedom and democracy are changing. In the next century, it will be the diplomacy of trade and the growth of the Internet that ensure continued United States leadership across the globe.

Our largest competitor and potential adversary in the next century is China. With a population of 1.3 billion people, a wealth of natural resources, technological knowledge, and an ability to threaten traditional allies and destabilize an entire region, China is clearly a global force. More importantly, its communist government and history of human rights abuses, including religious and political persecution, run counter to our core American principles. Many honorable people including some of my colleagues serving in the U.S. House of Representatives argue forcefully against trading with China based on these factors.

While we all share the commitment to our values of freedom and democracy, it is not in the interest of the U.S. to withdraw from the world. Rather, we must convey the hope and promise of free trade at home and throughout the world. That is why the U.S. House of Representatives voted to normalize trade relations with China yesterday. It provides a greater opportunity for the Chinese people to interact with the rest of the world where personal and economic freedom thrive.

Perestroika, Mikhail Gorbachev's plan for economic, political and social restructuring, clearly accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union by breaking down the traditional structure on which the state relied for control. Its fundamental flaw was that it attempted slowly to give life to something that, when released, is an unstoppable force: freedom.

Though China is not proposing anything approaching perestroika, its economic reformers advocating trade liberalization and the dismantling of State-Owned Enterprises are winning. In the long run, however, it will be the expansion of free and fair trade and the re-emergence of American ingenuity through the Internet that open traditionally closed societies and, directly or indirectly, deliver the message of freedom to all people.

The power of the Internet will define the way we communicate in our personal relationships, business dealings, and political advocacy throughout this new century. And, once again, the United States is leading the revolution. In fact, some of the most powerful and innovative high tech companies in the world are based right here in the U.S.

So what does it mean that the new bilateral trade agreement signed between the U.S. and China commits China to living under the Information Technology Agreement? It means tariffs on computer equipment will phase down to zero and the growing middle class in China will have access to low-cost tools with which to link them to the world. Equally important, the agreement allows for direct U.S. investment in Internet infrastructure and Internet service so we can reach out and connect more people with more information. Despite attempts by the Beijing government to control content on the web, the unleashing of the Internet by foreign-owned companies can only mean less control from Beijing and greater independence and control for the Chinese people to experience economic freedom. The Internet is a liberating force for a citizenry anxious to engage the world.

It is difficult to find a trade debate in the last quarter-century that is as significant as this one. Without normalizing trade relations with China, the U.S. will effectively lock itself out of the largest market of the next century and cede the role of global economic leadership to our trading competitors, such as the European Union, which just last week completed a trade agreement with China.

The U.S. has proven to be on the right side of history time and again because we do not deny the fundamental need of the human spirit: individual liberty. As the promise of free and fair trade spreads this message, we should neither fear this opportunity nor apologize for the advancement of American values. Engaging China as a willing and confident trade partner and taking our message to her people will prove, time and time again, to be the right course.

Jennifer Dunn, Washington Republican, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. She served on the House PNTR whip team.

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