Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hu is Here

Chinese President Hu Jintao will meeting with President Bush today. It's his first visit to America in his capacity as President of the People's Republic. As it has always been with me and China there is a measure of fascination along with the requisite suspicion.

China, in my estimamtion, is coming to a real crossroads in the next few years. Since its rapid embrace of modernization and its entry into the world marketplace China is the most dynamic culture on the planet right now. Everyone is rushing to do business there and one has to assume that for the businessman the pluses outweigh the minuses. Unlike Russia it seems China has embraced capitalism, in fact they have become better capitalists than we are. On balance it will mean a better life for the Chinese people, or at least the possibility of it. Serious human rights issues and a domineering one-party political apparatus are still huge impediments for a nation of nearly unlimited potential. The question remains: will China transform (reform) and meld into the community of nations as full partner in the global economy or will it exploit its vast human resources by using slave labor while building a massive military in order to replace America as the preeminent power in the world?

American businesses are betting on the former and the American military is planning for the later - as well they should. With Wal-Mart leading the way, American, Japanese and European businesses are falling all over themselves for a slice of all that cheap labor. The hope being that a growing middle class in China will force political change in Bejjing. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting editorial on this subject today. The real significant point being this:

The hue and cry over America's trade deficit with China is a distraction that masks this broad and beneficial economic relationship. It's also misleading. China runs a trade surplus with America, but it also has a deficit with the rest of Asia. That's because Asian companies that once exported goods directly to the U.S. now send them to Chinese factories for assembly and export. More than half of all Chinese "exports" aren't really "Chinese" at all. And here's a trade statistic you won't hear much about: China's relative share of the U.S. trade deficit is shrinking as wages rise on the mainland and American businesses source cheaper goods from other countries.

I don't necessarily share all of the WSJ's enthusiasim or confidence on the China debate but I want to be hopeful. The thought of a billion3 souls freed from the yoke of communism is very exciting to me. I just can't get past official government policy that advocates forced abortions and imprisons dissidents for speaking out against inhumane government policies. While America is obsessed with political correctness and other self-defeating internal debates China is amassing a manufacturing and information technology base with designs on greater global influence using the West's own inovations as its catapult. The old term Nero fiddles while Rome burns comes to mind.

The last question we need to ask is what about China and the global Islamic jihad? Part of me believes that China is secretly funding and supporting al Qaeda. The other part of me understands that al Qaeda and the rest of the Islamic facists seek to kill or convert Buddhists, Confucians and Hindus with the same zeal the employ against Jews and Christians. In other words just like Russia, China has a pending Islamic terrorism problem of their own. For now though it may be a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We certainly see that with Russia and Iran. Would it be out of the question to envision secret meetings between Hu and Osama bin Laden?