Last week the president held a state dinner for the president of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao. It was described everywhere as the hottest ticket in town. Yet, of the four top congressional leaders, only one, Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, attended.
Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stayed away. Their nominal excuses for not attending were weak and indicate a boycott was their aim.
The world knows that Asians react very strongly to loss of face which certainly includes discourtesy. It makes no sense to be rude to the leader of the country now in second place in the world’s economy, recently surpassing Japan, and the country that buys 25 percent of our U.S. Treasury notes used to finance our national debt.
We have legitimate grievances against the policies and actions of the Chinese government, many of which are the result of our own failure to negotiate equitable economic agreements. We have allowed them huge entry into our markets and they have not reciprocated, so that the balance of trade is now heavily in favor of China, the 10-month trade imbalance between China and the U.S. being $227 billion through October 2010.
We sell them our technology, e.g., General Motors gave them a license to produce Cadillacs. Their auto workers get somewhere in the vicinity of $1.50 per hour, while ours get between $15 and $26 per hour.
Recently, General Electric entered into an arrangement that will permit the Chinese to make GE’s airplane engines. Worse still, what intellectual properties they don’t buy, their companies steal and pay no royalties.
Nevertheless, it is shortsighted for U.S. government leaders to boycott a state dinner authorized by the president at the White House.
More than shortsighted, it is childish and fuels an enmity that isn’t helpful to us. Of course, China should be challenged with better negotiations on our part and presenting our case forcefully at every venue. But politeness, civility and shaking hands are not imprimaturs of agreement.
They are simply social graces and should be observed.
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