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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press No Shopping Lists for China: Dealing with China Involves Trade-offs

No Shopping Lists for China: Dealing with China Involves Trade-offs

Monday, 17 January 2011 21:40

The United States remains the world's number one economic and military power. This means that when President Obama sits down with many heads of state, the list of concerns that he presents is essentially a shopping list that he expects his counterpart to make good on. In many cases, the head of state of a country heavily dependent on the United States will have little choice but to deliver on the items on the list.

This is not true with China. While not yet the equal of the United States in either economic or military power, it is certainly a formidable enough power that the United States cannot simply dictate to it. This means that when it gives China a list of issues, it cannot reasonable expect China to agree to U.S. terms on all them. Therefore, when President Obama meets with China's President Hu Jintao this week, he will have to emphasize some things on the U.S. list while downgrading the importance of others.

For example, President Obama may emphasize enforcement of the patents and copyrights of U.S. companies like Pfizer and Microsoft. Or he may emphasize market access for financial service companies like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. The emphasis on these issues may imply that concerns over items, like the value of the yuan, get less attention.

The issue of trade-offs is not mentioned in the NYT's stage setting for the meetings. This omission is striking since this priority setting obviously must be central in the administration's preparations. Surely the NYT could have contacted some experts on U.S.-China relations even if it could not find anyone in the administration who was prepared to discuss its priorities.

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by JL, January 18, 2011 12:58

Your conclusion that the U.S. President would dictate a list of items and the other countries' head of state would have little choice but follow.

If it's as easy as you claimed, it's very hard to believe that U.S. still cannot get Israel to cease their settlement build-up or sign an agreement w/ the PLO.

Is that as easy as you claimed?
written by purple, January 18, 2011 3:24
I find the idea of IP enforcement re: China amusing. Yeah, that's going to happen - just stomp your feet a bit more Bill Gates and they will be scared.
written by Calgacus, January 18, 2011 1:50
JL, US preznits just don't want to spend the political capital - the Israel Lobby has a stranglehold on Congress. Of course under a strong president, the US certainly could twist Israel's arm. It just hasn't really wanted to or done so.

Anent Dean's post: market access for financial service companies like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. More - could we just give Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to China for nothing? A few years with them & their klepto-execs rampaging around China, and China's status as a rising power would be finished. Naah - the Chinese have done nothing to deserve this punishment.
written by JL, January 18, 2011 9:08
Cal., thanks.

You are right as I have followed this peace attempt for years. You said they have stranglehold on Congress.

The irony is they used our $ to lobby for themselves. Of course there are also covert ops too. And then, there are the constiutients. Indeed, a powerful group.
written by sherparick, January 19, 2011 2:11
We now know tha protecing corporate royalities was the priority,, not the exchange rate.


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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.