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U.S.-China Relations: the Case for Economic Liberalism.

  • Date Submitted: 08/12/2011 07:38 AM
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U.S.-China relations: the case for economic liberalism.
In its 2005 Report to Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission--also known as the U.S.--China Commission (USCC)--recommended that China appreciate its currency, the renminbi (RMB), "by at least 25 percent against the U.S. dollar" or face "an immediate, across-the-board tariff on Chinese imports." The commission argued that such an action could be justified under Article XXI of the World Trade Organization (WTO), "which allows members to take necessary actions to protect their national security." The key idea behind the commission's protectionist policy stance is that "China's undervalued currency has contributed to a loss of U.S. manufacturing, which is a national security concern" (USCC 2005: 14).
There is no doubt that financial repression in China has led to an undervalued currency, but that in itself does not pose a national security risk to the United States. Workers in U.S. manufacturing lose their jobs for many reasons. Blaming China for displacing American textile workers, for example, and thereby jeopardizing our national security is rather farfetched, to say the least. Moreover, U.S. manufacturing output has been increasing as American workers become more productive (Griswold 2006: 12).
When China hawks and protectionists on Capitol Hill join forces, as they did to defeat CNOOC's acquisition of Unocal in the summer of 2005, a dangerous precedent is established that threatens the future of a liberal global economic order and undermines a constructive U.S.-China policy of engagement (Dorn 2005). Although it is proper to criticize China for its human rights violations and its lack of a transparent legal system, we should not ignore the substantial progress China has made since it embarked on economic liberalization in 1978. U.S. economic security, as well as China's, will depend on promoting economic liberalism, rather than fostering protectionism.
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