It’s time for our elected representatives to decide whether to reward
or punish China for its theft of our most sensitive military technology
and for its worsening human rights abuse. There is no middle ground.
There is no place to hide. It will be a straight up-or-down vote in
both houses of Congress over whether to grant or deny China NTS or
“normal trading status.”
A vote for NTS must be viewed as a reward for its deplorable behavior
both at home and abroad. On the other hand, a no vote gives the Chinese
the opportunity to reflect on what a good relationship with this
country, which netted the People’s Republic a $56.9 billion trade
surplus in 1998, really is worth.
A yes vote virtually guarantees that China will keep right on doing
what it’s doing. A no vote offers at least the possibility of change.
Would a no vote mean that we would have to stop trading with the
Chinese? No, it means that the tariff or duty on Chinese goods coming
into this country would go up dramatically. That is why this vote must
be viewed as a reward for good behavior or a punishment for bad
behavior. There is no middle ground.
However, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Congress wrote the
rules governing trade and Congress can change them. Instead of an
extremely low tariff or an extremely high tariff, a sliding scale would
make a lot more sense. It would be less threatening — not a direct
shot across the bow. Under this arrangement there would be plenty of
time for an offensive country to feel and experience the consequences of
its actions and to make necessary corrections before trade with the
United States becomes impractical.
Engagement with China has not worked. While the overall economic
condition of the country has improved, individual rights and other forms
of personal expression have deteriorated. The State Department’s annual
human rights report issued in February 1999 states that there has been a
crackdown against organized political dissent and restrictions on
religious and other fundamental freedoms also has intensified.
Under a 1974 law, the president must seek an annual waiver to extend
normal trade status to totalitarian states. Mr. Clinton announced his
intention to renew China’s NTS on June 2. Congress has an opportunity
to overturn that decision with a veto-proof two-thirds vote in each
House when the issue is brought up this month.
On the one hand you have the pro-China crowd led by Mr. Clinton,
House Speaker Denny Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott who
argue that trade with China is tied to hundreds of thousands of American
jobs. On the other hand, you have those who put the defense interests
of this country and human rights above all those easy campaign
Harry Wu’s Laogai Research Foundation reports that Dun & Bradstreet’s
1995-96 directory of major corporations on the mainland listed 99 forced
labor camps with annual commercial sales of $842 million and last year
included 44 of these camps. Although we have a law that technically
prevents goods from these labor camps from being imported into our
country, there is no way to know for sure which goods imported from
China are manufactured with the blood, sweat and tears of political
prisoners. However, it now appears that, even when we do know,
officials are willing to look the other way.
In 1998, we sent $14.3 billion in goods to China and imported $71.2
billion. Almost none of American business interests in China involves
selling U.S. products to the 1.2 billion Chinese who barely can afford
the air they breathe. It involves sending raw material over there to be
made into everything from clothing and tools to Teddy Bears and
Christmas ornaments. The reason American businesses do not want the
tariffs raised on Chinese goods is because it would cost too much to get
them back and American business no longer would be able to take
advantage of the world’s cheapest labor.
American jobs tied to these products won’t go away, it’s just that
these companies will have to have their products manufactured elsewhere
or they will do it here at home. Also, we will not be sending China the
money to manufacture a new generation of weapons with the technology
they stole from us. It’s true that American consumers will have to pay
a little more for their products but they should be able to sleep a lot
better at night.