U.S.-China Economic Relations: Present and Future

By Richard H. Holton; Wang Xi et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

RICHARD H. HOLTON and WANG XI

China and the United States have now had a decade of experience since China's new economic reforms were introduced late in 1978. Economic relations between the two countries have been evolving steadily, but not without some tensions and complaints. The papers in this volume, presented at a conference at Fudan University in March 1988, review and assess the experience in this new era, with the hope that improved understanding can lead to felicitous relations between the two countries in the coming years.

In 1979, China's international trade was minimal, reflecting the long- standing policy of managing the economy with self-sufficiency as a major objective. Meanwhile, the United States was the biggest international trader. So in a sense we are looking at the David and Goliath of international trade and asking how they are getting on.

The answer seems to be that they are getting along tolerably well. The problems that have drawn attention stem largely from the pattern of change that the two countries are facing both internally and in relation to the world scene. China is moving toward an economy characterized by economic planning supplemented with free markets. Market forces are now to play a major role in guiding the allocation of resources. At the same time, modernization of the economy calls for fast improvements in the state of technology applied in the country's factories and infrastructure services, and this need dictates that much modern technology be acquired from the more industrialized countries of the world. Thus the demand for foreign exchange is great. Meanwhile, the country's industrialization program has not proceeded to the point where new industries have matured sufficiently to compete easily in world markets. Thus China must earn its foreign exchange largely from the exports traditionally favored by less-developed countries, namely textiles and textile products and other labor-intensive products.

The United States over the last decade has been experiencing its own version of a foreign exchange problem. Huge trade deficits developed,

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