China’s Economic Myth

  In the aftermath of September 11, a government-sponsored video showed the ruins of the World Trade Center. It told viewers, "Blood debts have been repaid in blood . . . This is the America the whole world has wanted to see." The video wasn't sponsored by Iraq or Iran, but by China. Our failure to respond to this outrage perfectly sums up our relationship with Beijing: a lack of concern about morality, or even national interests, and an exclusive focus on the needs of American commerce -- except, it appears, we may have compromised our principles for nothing. That's the conclusion reached by the New Republic's foreign editor, Joshua Kurlantzick. In the magazine's December 16 issue, he writes that if you "look closely at the Chinese economy . . . you'll find a far less rosy situation than that portrayed in most of the business press." "Far less rosy" indeed: He calls the "Chinese economic miracle . . . a house of cards." If that's the case, why are American companies tripping all over themselves to invest in China? Not because of "economic fundamentals." On the contrary, they ignore economic fundamentals out of fear that if they don't enter the Chinese market, "their competitors will overtake them." One expert compares their behavior to that of lemmings, small animals that mindlessly follow each other off a cliff. The myth of the "Chinese economic miracle" is fostered by the dishonesty of the communist government. Government claims about the growth of the economy over the past two decades are the product of a "falsification and exaggeration of statistics," as even a former premier has admitted. The best impartial analysis of the economy suggests low or even negative growth. Kurlantzick concludes, "Ultimately, China's economic facade probably will crack." Unfortunately, that crack won't have come in time to keep us from compromising, or even abandoning, some of our ideals and values. In our dealings with China, we have looked away so often that it's a wonder that we can look straight ahead anymore: Tiananmen Square, Tibet, slave-labor camps, forced abortions, and, of course, the persecution of Chinese Christians. We let these outrages slide by for the sake of trade and our competitiveness in the Chinese market -- a market that may have existed only in our wildest dreams of avarice. There's a lesson here for all Americans. It's not that trade and economics aren't important. They certainly are. But they can not be ends in and of themselves. Our dealings in the economic realm, especially where economics meets foreign policy, must be shaped by the values and principles we hold dear. That's because all any people and nation can possess for certain are the truths by which they order their lives. In the end, it's those truths that define who we really are. The bad news is that we've forgotten this in our pursuit of the Chinese pot of gold. The good news is that there's still time to re-order our relationship with Beijing in a way that honors what we profess: freedom, human dignity, and justice. The even better news is that there's not really much to lose in doing so. For further reading: Joshua Kurlantzick, "Is China's Economic Boom a Myth?", New Republic, 5 December 2002. John Derbyshire, "Second-Guessing China," NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, 16 December 2002. Bill Gertz, THE CHINA THREAT: HOW THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC TARGETS AMERICA (Regnery, 2002). BreakPoint Commentary No. 021206, "Torture and Truth: China's Persecuted Church."


Chuck Colson


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