Obama's China Policy Earns Mixed Reviews

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 31, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Obama's China Policy Earns Mixed Reviews

Byline: Carolyn Bartholomew, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

I t's New Year's Eve. Around the world, it's a time for taking stock in one's life. In Washington, we've elevated stock-taking to an art form. But here, it's taking stock in politics, policy and other people's lives. Continuing in that spirit, here's a review of where things stand with China policy.

After a year in office, President Obama earns mixed reviews on China. In a few key areas, notably sticking up for American jobs, he has shown remarkably more guts than his three predecessors. In others, particularly advocating for human rights and basic freedoms in China, his spine has been woefully weak.

First, the good news. The Obama administration is using the World Trade Organization for what it is supposed to be - a trade-dispute resolution mechanism. The administration is also enforcing U.S. trade laws. Bravo. By working with the EU, Japan, Mexico and others to take some of China's unfair trade practices to the WTO, the administration is helping American workers and demonstrating adherence to the rule of law. Ditto with U.S. trade law enforcement, with its emphasis on a competitive free market and fair play. Those are wins for America.

Kudos, too, to the administration for standing up to the Chinese government at Copenhagen. China's demand that the U.S. help foot its bill for green technology is a slap in the face to American taxpayers. It's a particular insult to the people across this country who have lost their jobs to China's vast array of unfair trade practices. Given America's innovations in the field, green jobs should be a pillar of U.S. economic growth. But the Chinese government, through its systematic subsidies, incentives and protectionism for its domestic industries, is outpacing the United States in this sector and luring American jobs to its shores. That the Chinese government expects the U.S. to underwrite this trend is a level of moxie that is hard to stomach.

Now, the not-so-good news. On China's phony currency valuation, Mr. Obama has so far trod the worn and ineffective path of Presidents Bush and Clinton before him. By some estimates, China's state-controlled currency is undervalued as much as 40 percent, unfairly damaging American manufacturers' ability to compete. By officially refusing to acknowledge even that China is manipulating its currency, the administration is providing cover to the Chinese government and depriving itself of a tool to create desperately needed jobs here at home.

On human rights, the news is also bad.

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