Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Regarding "China’s Claim in Latin America: So Far, a Partner not a Threat"

The Jaime Heine (related to the poet?) article regarding Chinese trade in Latin America, seems to me to tacitly pose the central question in US-Chinese third world trade competition: which trading partner is better for the people in the third world. As you know, the Chinese have demonstrated a willingness to trade with and support any tyrant, no matter how bloody toward his own subjects or threatening toward his neighbors. Chinese policy in Zimbabwe and Iran are models of that policy, though it is replicated in many other places. Simply, the Chinese assert that they are in those places to make a buck, not to advance any particular norm of governmental behavior. That a moral policy makes China a welcome trading partner to dreadful types across the globe, and in most cases, makes China an enabler of pariah governments.

By contrast, the US has struggled constantly and openly with the question of trade and the moral burdens that attend it. Thus, we sometimes trade with dictators and sometimes do not. When we do trade, we press, with varying degrees of effectualness and sincerity, for higher standards of humane governance. I prefer the Chinese model, in which business is simply business; it seems to me a less impeded route out of poverty. Naturally,I acknowledge the moral ledge on which such a policy is balanced. I would defend my position by pointing to the hundreds of millions killed in the name of utopian planning: they far outnumber the people murdered by free trade. Opposite to my line of thinking, COHA has consistently held that trade imposes grave obligations on the US to press democratic development on our more benighted trading partners, even if that development leaves them as wards of the international community.

Curiously, though, the Heine article appears to welcome the increased momentum of the Chinese model.

So, what do you want? Trade free of moral cant and posturing, as the Chinese offer? Or the conflicted American model in which we dither constantly between doing business and moral agonizing?
- usually not doing either particulary well.

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