Withdrawing MFN Won't Change China

Don't Appease China





Don't Appease China

By Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon


In the field of international relations, one would think that government officials would rely more on hard evidence than on theory when setting policy. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Take our policy toward China. It relies solely on theory -- the theory of engagement, i.e., that increased trade and contact will modify the behavior of the communist regime regarding human rights, trade and foreign policy. A bipartisan consensus in both the executive and legislative branches has succeeded in basing U.S. China policy on this theory, despite overwhelming evidence that the theory is not bearing out in reality.

With regard to human rights, one need only look at the State Department's (engagement theorists, one and all) 1996 Report on Human Rights. It states, "Overall in 1996, the authorities stepped up efforts to cut off expressions of protest or criticism. All public dissent against the party and government was effectively silenced by intimidation, exile, the imposition of prison terms, administrative detention, or house arrest."

This clearly implies that the human rights behavior of the Beijing dictatorship is worsening, the exact opposite of what would be expected under the engagement theory.


On trade, hardly a day goes by when the picture with China does not get worse. China's refusal to grant fair and open access to American goods has resulted in our trade deficit with that country skyrocketing to $38 billion last year and toward $50 billion this year.

Engagement theorists and their big business allies keep telling us that U.S. exporters will get access to the vast Chinese consumer market in return for this, but that remains an elusive myth. American exports to China totaled only $12 billion in 1996, less than one-fifth of one percent of the U.S. economy.

Engagement theorists claim that these exports currently support 170,000 U.S. jobs, which would be jeopardized if we cut off most-favored-nation trade status (MFN) and China retaliated. Leaving aside that this 170,000 figure has not changed since last year (the engagement theory would have it going up), considering that over one-third of China's exports come to us, versus two percent of ours going to them, it seems rather odd for us to be afraid of a trade spat with China. We clearly have the upper hand.

On national security, what we see is a relentless Chinese military buildup, ever more frequent exports of technology for weapons of mass destruction, and an increasingly belligerent Chinese foreign policy. While every other major country has reduced its military spending of late, China has increased its military spending by double digits for several years running. In 1997 it is scheduled to increase by 14.7 percent.

What are they buying? SS-N-22 Sunburn missiles from Russia, designed to take out U.S. ships and kill American sailors.

Meanwhile, China's irresponsible proliferation activities continue unabated. Despite engagement (or perhaps because of it) China continues to export ballistic missile and nuclear technology to Pakistan, and missile, nuclear and chemical weapons technology to the avowed enemy of America, Iran, in clear violation of the 1992 Iran-Iraq Non-Proliferation Act (authored, incidentally, by former Sen. Al Gore).


Despite all the above evidence, many politicians, bureaucrats and academics cling desperately to the theory of engagement, hoping it will foster future progress in China. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asserted that engagement has encouraged China to "help gain approval" of a nuclear test ban treaty, help "prevent instability" in North Korea, and "support peacekeeping operations in Cambodia."

The bottom line, however, is that engagement is just a fancy name for an old, and also failed, policy: appeasement. Our appeasement of China, however, only begins with MFN. Other examples abound.

For instance, U.S. taxpayers subsidize the government of China to the tune of billions of dollars per year through the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank. The U.S government does nothing to stop these loans. Just a few months ago, the Pentagon and the White House rolled out the red carpet for the Chinese general who directed the Tiananmen Square massacre.

If one were to look at these acts of appeasement as an investment in China's hoped-for progress, and at Secretary Albright's scanty list of positive Chinese behavior as the returns on that investment, one would realize that the investors in this scheme -- American workers, taxpayers, soldiers and sailors -- have been had.

It is time to change investment managers. That is precisely why Sen. Jesse Helms and I have introduced resolutions to cut off MFN for Communist China, and that is why I predict we stand a good chance of winning.

Solomon is a Republican member of Congress from New York

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