Saturday, May 1, 2010

Engaging China on Currency Reform and Other Policies

Over the next few months, President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner will be meeting several times with their Chinese counterparts. On the U.S. agenda is revaluation of China’s currency, cooperation in controlling the development and spread of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In exchange, China wants the U.S. to keep out of its relations with Taiwan, cease U.S. support for Tibet’s Dalai Lama, and loosen restrictions on high-tech exports.

Congress and several business and labor groups want the U.S. to impose tariffs on Chinese goods and other sanctions if China does not respond to U.S. concerns. Others advise that China will become more compliant if the U.S. does not publicly pressure China to change its policies, and let China make the decisions at a time and place of its own choosing.

From the vantage of 47 years of periodic study of China, beginning with language training in Hong Kong in 1963, I’ve fashioned a two-line rhyme, four characters each (albeit in bad grammar), that to me explains much of China’s decisions in its relations with foreigners.

Ni yao ni shuo (You say what you want)
Wo yao wo zuo (I do what I want)

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