October 1, 2007

Blame Canada, Not China

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A few years ago, thanks to South Park, America’s national anthem changed and went something like, “blame Canada…blame Canada.” But now, it seems that our new enemy in the Far East is replacing our neighbor to the north. China is blamed for just about everything these days, and certainly these criticisms have some merit. However, there is a rise in protectionism in this country that will prove to be dangerous if it continues. We cannot forget the benefits that the United States has obtained thanks to globalization and the rise of China. This does not mean that we should give China a free pass, but it does mean that when a potential future president such as Hillary Clinton says China is causing “a slow erosion of our own economic sovereignty,” we should be scared.
It does not take much to recognize how well the U.S. has done thanks to globalization. Our GDP has grown significantly more in the past 20 years than many other industrialized nations. You can also measure the positive effects of globalization by going in an electronic store, and getting a Chinese-made DVD player for well under $100. Just look around you and notice how many of your friends have the newest video game system, or ask your parents if they had as many “toys” as you do. Certainly, globalization is not 100 percent responsible for all of this, but it plays a significant role. It is important to keep in mind that the U.S. has been at the forefront of this globalization movement. Yes, China’s economy has grown exponentially over the years, but China still has significant hurdles to overcome in terms of its communist government, extreme pollution, and human rights. The real winner here has been America. Unemployment is hovering around a low 4.5 percent and inflation has been fairly constant. Globalization has been a friend of the U.S.
The problem is that the benefits of globalization are much quieter and develop over more time than the downfalls. Over the past year, Mattel has had to recall about 21 million toys because of problems with Chinese manufacturing. It scared people to see the innocent and classic Barbie doll filled with lead. Problems with Chinese manufacturing should not be shrugged off. However, there has been a tremendous backlash against China led by Democrats such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who co-sponsored a bill that would essentially force China to revalue its currency and thus raise tensions. Viewing China as the enemy rather than as a healthy competitor and as an ally in the global economy is not good policy.
The fact of the matter is that the money is now elsewhere. Any company that wants to expand is going to China. McDonald’s is building in underdeveloped Chinese towns with the hope of getting huge returns when these towns begin to develop. American firms investing overseas bring the money back to the U.S. This money is used to expand their operations at home and to hire skilled Americans at decent paying jobs. This also helps the nations that corporations are investing in, but this is not a bad thing. Increased investment and capitalism in China is forcing the nation towards a more liberal democracy. One only needs to look at Dubai to see the influence that globalization can have. The gulf nation is thriving and it has seemed to overcome the stagnation and poverty that exists in other mid-east nations. More so than elections or a court system, capitalism and globalization are the keys to opening the door to democracy. By encouraging capitalism and having an economic friend, we will eventually have a political friend as well.
Making China seem like the bad guy does not help us. The U.S. certainly needs to be wary of China. However, protectionism and anti-China rhetoric will get us nowhere. By helping to develop China into Western-style democracy and capitalism, we will not only help the Chinese, but we will help ourselves. Globalization scares some people because the negative implications can be devastating for some. Yet at the same time, the gains from globalization will make us all better in the long run. Obama and Clinton should focus on cushioning people when they fall—job training and financial stability provided by the government will make people less afraid of globalization—not on bashing China. We should remember that Canada is where the cold air comes from, it is responsible for Celine Dion, and it takes curling seriously. I propose that the U.S. adopts a policy of blaming Canada rather than China.