The China Deal


Chinese president Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States is off and running, highlighted by the announcement of a $45 billion export deal with President Obama at the White House today. 

Among the products to be exported are aircraft from Boeing.  Maybe while the Boeing guys are in Beijing, they could earn some extra cash by fixing up that clumsy Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20.  It caused a big stir when video of it “leaked” a couple of weeks ago, but military analysts are still uncertain how much of a threat it might pose.  It certainly doesn’t look like a gazelle eager to race across the field of aerial battle.  By contrast, the American F-22 Raptor is so dangerous it can kill you just by looking at you, and so mean that it once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Speaking of Reno, Nevada senator Harry Reid caused a little stir by referring to Hu as a “dictator” during an interview, although it sounds like he had little hearts in his eyes when he said it.  “I’m going to go back to Washington tomorrow and meet with the president of China.  He is a dictator.  He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have,” Reid declared, before realizing the implications of what he just said, and how many of his wealthiest Nevada constituents own big casinos in China.  “Maybe I shouldn’t have said ‘dictator,’ but they have a different type of government than we have, that’s an understatement.  So we have to work within the system we have, the best system ever devised.”

Yes, our system is the best ever described, but the Chinese system sure can do a lot of things!  Also, they don’t have to worry about a “climate of hate” caused by outspoken criticism of the government.  Just ask Liu Xiaobo!

Rather strenuous attempts have been made to avoid the uncomfortable topic of human rights in China, although a few reporters have managed to pester Hu about it, along with a Falun Gong protestor.  Just to be on the safe side, CNN reports that Chinese authorities have blacked out its broadcast of Hu’s meeting with Obama, along with various troublesome Internet data streams.  They’ve had Net Neutrality in China for quite a while now.

Many observers are unhappy about the plan to fete the Chinese dictator with a state banquet, when all he ever got out of George Bush was lunch.  (Did I just say “dictator?”  Curse you, Harry Reid!)  President Obama doesn’t own the White House china that will be laid out at the table, but the China seated at the table owns him.

The President (the American one, not the dictator guy) summed up the basic principle of economic engagement by saying, “We will be more prosperous and more secure when we work together.”  This is a bit hollow coming from a politician wholly dedicated to the notion that security requires the unlimited sacrifice of prosperity, from job-killing health care schemes to job-killing energy policies. 

On an international scale, security through prosperity means a nation like China will restrain its aggressive tendencies because it doesn’t want to sacrifice its valuable trade deals.  This concept depends entirely on a muscular sentinel of liberty holding the other end of the trade leash.  The way things are going, it’s more likely we’ll find that leash wrapped around our own necks, in some dark near-future scenario where China decides to embark on a little military adventure somewhere.  They already hold a trillion dollars of our debt.  How far would they have to go before a deficit-crazed Administration could afford to rescind their dinner invitations?

I don’t think Hu Jintao sees any reason why he can’t fulfill all the goals of his Politburo, and have prosperous trade with America too.  No one in this Administration is going to convince him otherwise.  We may hope that a better President will use the trade connections forged today to transmit an uncompromising message of freedom and human dignity to China in the future.  It may not be possible, in a delicate global economy, to do business only with the virtuous… but there’s nothing wrong with demanding greater virtue from those we do business with.  At the very least, we can stop putting up with empty seats at Nobel Prize ceremonies.