Critics of US-China trade relations need a reality check

20 January 2011
As gift-giving is a big part of business culture in China, it can be difficult to know what’s appropriate. No clocks (too similar to the word for death), umbrellas (sounds like “loss”) or a green hat (it means they are a cuckold). The last time they met, in 2009, President Barack Obama gave President Hu Jintao a US-manufactured edition of the board game Go. No word as yet on what the US president gave his Chinese counterpart this week, but some others have stepped forward with some “gifts” that probably won’t be appreciated.Hu's on first American Alliance for Manufacturing advertThe American Alliance for Manufacturing was first, running a series of critical adverts (see right) moaning about China’s “currency manipulation”, “predatory economic policies” and “cut-throat pricing that harms US producers and their workers” (and the pun in the headline was probably too good to resist). Next up was a group of 84 Democrat and Republican politicians who demanded in an open letter “the PRC must stop cheating to compete and start playing by the rules of international commerce” and President Hu “should hear this message in no uncertain terms”. Despite the well-intentioned words of the two leaders yesterday, and the $45 billion in contracts the Chinese have inked this week, suspicion and hostility in the trading relationship between the two nations is evident. Much of the US rhetoric surrounds the desire for a “level playing field”. Yet at the same time, many of China’s critics support similar protectionist measures in retaliation or to enhance US businesses and the economy. These critics must be realistic. There will never be a level playing field between the two nations. While China may not be playing fair on trade, neither is the US – or probably anyone else for that matter.
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