For decades, the dominant perception about how to bring democracy to China is "economic determinism." Not only is this policy wrong, but the application of this theory has proven counterproductive.
In simplistic terms, the theory holds that trade with Communist China will create freedom. This would somehow be accomplished because the resulting jobs and economic growth would create a consuming middle class within China, who would in turn demand both political power and civil rights, causing either gradual democratic reform or a swift democratic revolution. In theory, this sounds like a great way to bring freedom to more than 20 percent of the world's population. In addition, every warm blooded capitalist considers not only the cheap production costs in China, but also the prospect of making five-cents on every product that will eventually be sold to these one-billion Chinese. However, this simplistic policy overlooks many real world concerns in China:
- China has shown a disregard towards -- or more accurately, an established policy against -- the protection of intellectual property rights. This disregard unfortunately extends well beyond not only copyrighted material such as videos, music and computer programs, which already costs American businesses billions each year, but also manufacturing techniques and cutting edge technology.
- China doesn’t just take jobs; it takes entire industries. In fact, recently the Chinese have expressed an interest in becoming the world’s supplier of automobiles. If this were accomplished, as they have done in other industries, the recent layoffs of 25,000 American workers by GM would amount to a drop in a bucket.
- The continued movement of the high-tech, industrial, and manufacturing base away from the United States and other democracies would result in our own dependence on the Chinese for vital materials. This would put in question the availability of these materials when U.S. and Chinese interests inevitably diverge. For example, during the buildup to the liberation of Iraq, Switzerland (a supposed friendly country) announced they would not supply material to either side. As a result, the U.S. lost its supply of a major component for JDAM kits, a Global Positioning device for bombs. Fortunately, the Defense Department was able to find a domestic manufacturer that could make this component...this time.
- Trade with China has and will continue to be one-sided, resulting in the constant transfer of wealth to the government of China. This wealth has funded their military build-up, which is particularly focused on ballistic missiles and anti-carrier warfare that one day may be used against the United States or our allies. China has labeled the United States an enemy and declared our existing treaties and security relationships in the Asia Pacific regions to be infringements upon its sovereignty.
For those last true believers in "economic determinism," perhaps they need to consider the political situation within the oil rich nations of the Middle East. Both China and these nations are held up economically by the inflow of wealth from Western nations. This wealth goes to support the oligarchical regimes in both regions. Just as oil wealth has not empowered the people of the Middle East, the wealth from trade and economic assistance seems unlikely to bring democracy to China. Just as the benefits of the wealth from oil is limited to the ruling elites, so too the wealth gained by the Chinese goes to the Communist leadership and their friends, who continue to maintain their own power and position at the expense of the people's freedom and human dignity.