China syndrome

The incentive for trade

President Clinton gently urged Chinese leaders to try a little tenderness in dealing with dissidents. But apart from that rhetoric on human rights, it was clear that the real purpose of Clinton’s trip to China was not to scold Chinese leaders but to start reversing the $50 billion imbalance in trade between the two powers. Clinton’s enthusiastic embrace of the Chinese as trading partners is not unique to him; it is in the grand American tradition of economic and diplomatic selectivity. If trade is our priority, then human rights and moral concerns are pushed into the background. If trade is not important, then American presidents will give priority to justice and moral principles in foreign policy.


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