Should We Trade with China? : LUSENET : Economic History (and Related Observations) : One Thread

Date: Fri, 19 May 2000 10:13:25 -0400 Subject: Thanks! Prof. DeLong,

Thanks for the info about your site. It's full of great stuff.

Here's a topic I'd love to know your thoughts on:

The recent mindset by Democrats and Republicans, alike, on Trade With China.

I for well over a decade, I've taken serious issue with how the Chinese have treated the Tibetans, their own citizens, the Taiwanese and now I'm concerned about their 'interests' in Hong Kong.

All of a sudden, the Reps and Dems have morphed further into ONE party in their shared belief that China will get accepted into the WTO and, if we don't trade with them, WE'LL be the ones left out in the cold. All under the guise of, "...hey, we can't influence change, if we pretend they don't exist!" while extolling the virtues of the Chinese working in American businesses (presumably in China) and how that will inspire them to run home to tell their neighbors about their great 'pay' and 'benefits' and THAT is what will change China....the Chinese, not pressure from the US.

Is this a cop out? Is this an excuse to use the cheap labor of China? Will US farmers really benefit somehow?

I've been dead set against giving China Most Favored Nation status for years now, thinking we'll teach them a thing, or two, but nothing's getting any better over there.

Maybe I shouldn't be mixing Trade with Human Rights? But, how else can we 'get' to them, if not through their pocketbooks?

-- Stella Miller (, May 22, 2000


The way I understand it is by distinguishing bween the Chinese *government* and the Chinese *people*.

The Chinese government is pretty awful--not nearly as awful as it was a generation ago during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, but still pretty awful. The question is how to change it. And the hope is that free trade and other steps to make economic, cultural, and social contact between China and the rest of the world as close as possible will in the long run--fifty years or more--teach China's people what they are missing, and give them the ideas and the power they need to change their government.

So far no dictatorship (save Singapore) has survived when a country's people have become rich enough that almost everyone is literate, everyone has a radio or TV, and more than half the people have cars. South Korea and Taiwan are the most recent indications that this strategy works: that political democracy follows economic prosperity and close contact with the rest of the world.

Of course, this is a long-run strategy. And in the meantime the government remains awful--and faster economic growth gives the government more power to exert its will over other, neighboring countries.

And, of course, this strategy is not certain to succeed. But, as Laura Tyson puts it, in the long run the attitude of the Chinese people toward Americans will be much better if we try to make them democratic by making them rich than if we try to keep their government from being a threat by keeping them poor...

Brad DeLong

-- Bradford DeLong (, May 24, 2000.

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