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U.S.-Sino Relations at 40: How to Deal with China While Avoiding War

December 31, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Richard Nixon famously “went to China” in 1971,
ending the hostile silence between the two governments. But Jimmy
Carter completed the bilateral relationship, formally recognizing
the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Official relations were
established on January 1, 1979.

The move was controversial, at least to conservatives who backed
the Republic of China (ROC), Chiang Kai-shek’s rump state
located on the island of Taiwan. The ROC matched the PRC in
claiming to be the legitimate government of all China, but without
the slightest chance of fulfilling that ambition. After the Nixon
trip, Taipei lost not only its seat on the United Nations Security
Council but also its membership in the UN. Numerous nations
switched their recognition to Beijing. America’s 1979 flip
left only a gaggle of smaller states behind Taiwan, many of which
have since defected.​

Even a decade or so later, when I first visited the mainland,
the PRC still was markedly poor. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, the
roads were filled with bicycles and scooters. There were some new
buildings, but no one would imagine Beijing challenging America for
global leadership. The “China threat,” as it were,
seemed very modest.

January 1st marks the
40th anniversary of U.S.-China ties. What happens next?

Fast forward to January 1, 2019. The United States remains ahead
economically, but using purchasing power parity instead of exchange
rates puts Beijing in first place. The PRC still lags America in
military spending but is number two in the world. Even before
President Donald Trump’s misdirected global assault on free
trade, China was the world’s greatest trading nation, far
outdistancing America in Asia. Beijing is using its economic clout
to gain political influence through the “Belt and Road”
infrastructure investment program.

The good news is that hundreds of millions of people have
escaped immiserating poverty. The Chinese also are largely free to
work, marry, travel, study, and much more. The deadening personal
uniformity and political conformity under the “Red
Emperor” is gone. The Chinese people enjoy a degree of
individual autonomy and liberty unknown to most of their
ancestors.

However, the bad news is extremely bad. Although the Trump
administration can be faulted for its tariff tactics, the PRC has
manipulated trade and investment rules, stolen intellectual
property, targeted foreign firms, and forced technology transfers.
Such practices are ever less tolerable as China grows wealthier and
more assertive.​

Worse, Beijing appears to be racing back to its ignoble past. Xi
has eliminated the two-term limit on the PRC president—a
limit that was imposed to discourage the rise of another Mao. Under
Xi censorship has been intensified, Western contacts have been
limited, dissent has been targeted, human rights have been
restricted, …read more

Source: OP-EDS