Should The Us Grant China The Most

Favored Nation Trade Status Essay, Research Paper

Should the US grant China the Most Favored Nation Trade Status?


Respect for human rights should condition the foreing relation of the US. For this reason, the US government should not grant China the Most Favored Nation trade status. In the following policy memorandum I ll explain the criterion used to make this particular recomendation.

Human Rights Violations in China

According to William Clinton s linkeage policy, human rights violations will be an obstacule for granting China the Most Favored Nation Status. On 28 May 1993, President Clinton s executive order established human rights-related conditioning factors requiring the Secretary of State to recomend to the president by 3 June 1994 a non-continuation of MFN waiver authority for the period beginning 3 July 1994. In the case of human rights conditions the Secretary of State shall also determine whether China has made overall, significant progress . It is my recomendation that China should t get this preferntial trade rate because its human rights record has not improved. The goverment of the People s Republic of China is guilty of arbitrary arests, torture, political persecution, repression of tibetan no-vilent protesters, labour camp exports, problems with criminal procedure and censorship of free speech.

Although the Government denies that it holds political prisoners, the number of persons detained or serving sentences for “counterrevolutionary crimes” or “crimes against the state,” or for peaceful political or religious activities are believed to number in the thousands. Persons detained during 1990-93 included activists arrested for issuing petitions or open letters calling for reforms and greater democracy.

Nonapproved religious groups, including Protestant and Catholic groups, also experienced intensified repression as the Government enforced 1994 regulations that require all such groups to be registered with government religious affairs bureaus and come under the supervision of official “patriotic” religious organizations. The US Department of State s report on human rights in China has provided the following information:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were reports of extrajudicial killings, including some carried in the Chinese press. There is, however acording to the US Department of State, no reliable information about the number of such killings or the adequacy of the government response. There have been numerous executions carried out immediately after mass summary trials. Often these “trials” occur under circumstances where the lack of basic due process protections borders on extrajudicial killing.

b. Disappearance

In January the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances reported on three new cases of disappearances that allegedly occurred in 1993. Most of the 56 cases which the Working Group has under review occurred between 1988-90. The majority were Tibetans, the others were political activists. The Government still has not provided a comprehensive, credible public accounting of all those missing or detained in connection with the suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits torture, however, both official Chinese sources and international human rights groups continued to report many cases in which police and other elements of the security apparatus employed torture and degrading treatment in dealing with detained and imprisoned persons. Former detainees have credibly reported that officials used cattle prods, electrodes, thumb cuffs, prolonged periods of solitary confinement and incommunicado detention, beating, shackles, and other forms of abuse against detained men and women. Persons detained pending trial were particularly at risk as a result of government failure to correct obvious systemic weaknesses in design and operation of pretrial detention.

In March the Supreme People’s Procuratorate reported that it had investigated 412 cases in which torture was used to extract confessions in 1993, but it provided no information on convictions or punishments. The number of actual incidents of torture and mistreatment by government officials is almost certainly greater than reflected in published government statistics.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under the Criminal Procedure Law, officials may hold detainees for up to 10 days before the Procuratorate must approve a formal arrest warrant. In theory, the Administrative Procedure Law permits a detainee to challenge the legality of his detention. In practice, however, lack of access to legal counsel inhibits the effective use of this law to obtain prompt judicial decisions on the issue. In known cases involving political dissidents, authorities have interpreted the law in the Government’s favor and strictly against detainees. . Nevertheless, Procurator General Zhang Siqing reported in March to the NPC that during 1993 the Supreme Procuratorate investigated 4,627 illegal detention cases.

In January 1994, a Justice Ministry official said that there were 2,678 people serving sentences for counterrevolutionary crimes at the end of 1994. These figures include political prisoners detained but not charged; political or religious activists held in reeducation-through-labor camps; and persons detained or convicted for criminal offenses solely involving nonviolent political or religious activities.

e. Freedom of Speech and Press

Fear of government retaliation limited artistic freedom of expression. Security personnel have effectively eliminated an artist community near Beijing University at Yuanmingyuan through harassment and arrests. The crackdown, which began in 1994, appeared to be the result of official irritation over the artists’ antigovernment views.

The Government has continued to impose heavy ideological controls on political discourse at colleges, universities, and research institutes. In September, for example, authorities closed computer bulletin boards at universities in Beijing when students began using the Internet to urge government action in defense of Chinese sovereignty claims over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. As a result of official controls, many intellectuals and scholars, fearing that books or papers on political topics would be deemed too sensitive to be published, feel compelled to exercise self-censorship. In areas such as economic policy or legal reform, there was far greater official tolerance for comment and debate.

f.Religious Persecution

In November 1993 the official Tibet Daily newspaper called for “large-scale” reform of religious policy. “Buddhism must conform to socialism, not socialism to Buddhism…Some people are seeking to expand the role and influence of religion, without recognizing its negative influence.” The article published statistics that it said provided indications of the negative influence of religion on Tibet’s economic development: There were 1,787 temples in Tibet at the beginning of 1996, “exceeding the number of towns and cities,” while 46,000 monks and nuns “outnumbered middle school students.” Temples compete for scarce resources hurting other areas, the article claimed. “We must adopt an offensive strategy to protect the paramount interests of the state….”

In November the official Tibet Daily newspaper called for “large-scale” reform of religious policy. “Buddhism must conform to socialism, not socialism to Buddhism…Some people are seeking to expand the role and influence of religion, without recognizing its negative influence.” The article published statistics that it said provided indications of the negative influence of religion on Tibet’s economic development: There were 1,787 temples in Tibet at the beginning of 1996, “exceeding the number of towns and cities,” while 46,000 monks and nuns “outnumbered middle school students.” Temples compete for scarce resources hurting other areas, the article claimed. “We must adopt an offensive strategy to protect the paramount interests of the state….” China leads the world in persecuting members of all religious faiths. The government views as subersive over 100 million Buddhists, 40 million Christians and 17 million muslims. Pastors and priests are murdered, imprisioned and tortured.

Over the years China has had a double standard , arguing on the one hand for the struggle of third world coutries and other justice upholding countries against the large scale violation of human rights by hegemonism, imperialism, colonialism and autocracy , and on the other that using alleged charges of human rights violations to vilify and attact China and to interfere with China s judicial and administrative affairs is an act unfriendly to China and Chinese people and the violation of Chinas sovereignity . So China adknowleges human rights violations when they are not committeed in its territory. Finally, according to the Anual Survey of Freedom Country Scores compilated by the respected ONG Freedom House, China is one of the lower socring countries (Apendix A).

It would be againts the policy President Clinton anounced last year to allow China to get MFN. Besides it would threaten the compromise the US has with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law. If the US goverment is really concerned about human rights, an economic sanction like taking away the MFN, will be useful for improving China s human rights record.

Effectiveness of Posible Economic Sanctions

There are two reasons why economic sanctions to China will be effective. First, the Chines government has been cooperative when threatened by previous economic sanctions. Experts suggest that Chinese concessions in 1990 were motivated by the threat of losing MFN and a desire to ease other U.S. sanctions, particularly restrictions on access to international loans. Chinese measures in 1990 included the release of some 800 dissidents, an agreement to purchase $2 billion of Boeing jetliners (with an option for additional purchases), the visit of a high-level trade mission to purchase U.S. goods, and allowing Fang Lizhi, a leader of the democracy movement who had taken refuge at the American embassy, to leave the country.(46) In 1991 Chinese officials announced that they would refuse to accept conditional renewal of MFN, but made a series of concessions such as promising to ban export of goods produced with prison labor, stopping illegal transshipments of textiles through third countries, pledging better protection for American intellectual property, and a promise to purchase more American goods. Other conciliatory measures included placing a reactor sold to Algeria under IAEA safeguards, an agreement to discuss limits on Middle East arms sales, and consideration of joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and adhering to Missile Technology Control Regime export restrictions. Chinese Premier Li Peng acknowledged in late June 1991 that China had made “a great deal of efforts” to preserve Most Favored Nation status.

Now, in 1994, in the lead up to the annual MFN decision, Beijing has signed a Second agreement with the United States on prision labour exports, provided american diplomats information on political prisioners and initiated discusions of prision visits with the international commette of the Red Cross. All this concesions mean that China is really interested in keeping good economic relations with the US and that it responds favorably to extenal pressure and to the threat of not having the MFN status.

The second reason is that the Chinese government faced with tremendous economic loss by not having the MFN status, will improve its human rights record to try to get back the MFN status. Based on 1992 data, a World Bank study suggests Chinese exports to the U.S. would fall by between $12.658 and $19.039 billion. Based on 1993 data, the study suggests Chinese exports to the U.S. would fall by between $15.513 and $23.332 billion. A decline in exports to the U.S. is not a total loss; the goods can be sold elsewhere or the resources that would have gone to produce them can be reallocated. The partial equilibrium models reviewed cannot estimate the overall impact of the loss of MFN status on the Chinese economy. Nevertheless, a large decline in exports would have ripple effects throughout the economy, significantly slowing China’s growth rate. Sun Shangqing, a senior Chinese economist, claims that loss of MFN would seriously affect only ten percent of China’s exports, that the bulk of these exports could be redirected to Asian markets, and that China would be able to meet its 9 percent growth target even with the loss of MFN. However a recent World Bank study found that across-the-board loss of MFN could slash China’s economic growth from 1993’s 13 percent to as little as 6.5 percent. Yizi Chen, an economist who left China after Tian’an’men Square, notes that “Chinese officials are trying to underplay the impact on its economic development for political reasons.” Chen estimates that withdrawal of MFN status would result in the loss of more than 5 million Chinese jobs, a figure far higher than the 2 million that the Chinese government has projected in unofficial forums.Therefore the loss of MFN would prove very costly to China.

Economic Risks for the US

Some argue that not grating MFN to China would too prove costly for the US. One of the arguments is that China is a huge market for US products. This might not be the case, because first of all the US has a comercial deficit with China. According to the International Monetary Fund the US deficit with China last year was 6 276 million dollars. This means that China buys less goods from the US than the US does for China. Why has this happened?

From 1980 to 1988, US exports to and imports from China stayed in a rough balance. The deficit grew because China has blocked the importation of american goods. Acording to the Department of Comerce, tarif against US imports ranged as high as 150%. In adition the Commerce Department notes China also relies on multiple overlapping non tarif barriers. These barriers include import licensing requirements, import quotas, standards and certification requirements and strict controls over Chinese enterprises trading rights. The original purpose of the MFN status, trade reciprocity, is not present in the US relation with China.

Some economist and bussiness lobbist contend that the trade deficit with China doesn t matter. They argue that the US is impoting low tech, labour intensive products from China that would not have been done in the US anyway. By importing them from China, american consumers benefit from low prices. But this is misleading. If the US purchased these low tech imports from Mexico for instance, rather than from China, then we could export more in return. China s trade barriers prevent a corresponding growth in America s exports.

Then there is the problem of piracy and lack of respect for copyright laws. Acording to the Software Publishers Association, 96 percent of the CD and software currently sold in China are pirated. That means a loss of billions of dollars in property rights of US citizens. China is in that respect a not very trust wothy trading partner.

Does Commerce promote Democracy?

An other argument used to try to convince the public opinion of the benefits of granting China the Most Favored Nation Status is that by encouraging trade the US encourages democracy and a kinder gentler China. I think they confused encouraging capitalism with encouraging democracy. Somehow people have forgotten that economic freedom does not necesarily guarantee political freedom. For example, in corageous, eloquent letters from his prision cell, the leading Chinese human rights advocate, Wei Jingsheng, continued to prod his captors, arguing that China could never be a truly modern state without respecting human rights. In an attempt to refute him, his communist jailers took him on a tour of Beijing, wich he had not seen in more than a decade. They hoped to win him over with sights of new skyscrapers, automoviles and consumer goods. Wei acknowledged he was impressed with this changes. But then he asked to be taken to a bookstore, where he noticed that the thinly stocked shelves had not changed since the worst days of the cultural revolution.

Wei knew that people can enjoy a vast improvement in material well being but still suffer from censorship and political persecution. Saying that improving Chinese economy will lead to a freer society is deterministic and hardly realist. If this was true China s human rights record would have improved in the past 14 years during wich it has enjoyed MFN status and a large economic growth. The most recent State Department annual human rights report acknowledged this fact. Finally there are plenty of examples, Chile for instance, how a country can have a liberal economic regime but a dictatorship for a government.

Is China vital to US security?

Another argument for granting the MFN status is that we might lose China as a political ally in the UN Security Council. The veto in the Security Council is a threat istrinsic to the structure of this international organization. The Chinese are likely to use this veto even if we grant them the most favored nation status. And even I ,an advoctate for international law, know that the american security decisions do not depend on the veredicts or prefernces of the UN. Veto or no veto the USA is going to take the security measures it considers necesary.


Then there is a final problem, Beijing does not believe that the president is serious about his threat to end most favored nation tariff treatment for China if specified human rights progress is not made. Why have the chinese government have drawn this conclusions? Sometimes they have resulted from American hopitality and politeness, at other times from brutally frank encounters. For example in October 1993 chinese officials having met a congressman who in paraphrase told them : I have some good knews and some bad news for you. The bad news is that President Clinton has promised to take MFN away from China if human rights don t improve. The good news is that he doesn t keep his promises .

If Clinton or Congress makes a statement like not granting MFN status for China, the US would come across as a country that has a real compromise with defending human rights, and that has not only economic and geopolitical leadership , but also stands as a moral example for the whole world to follow. China enjoys a vast trade surplus. They have a 17 cont an hour labour wage. They deny most american products, and they impose up to 30% tariffs on nearly all of our products. In adition China shoots their own citizens, treats theis people like cattle and laughs in the face of the US. No one believes that simply deniying MFN is going to solve everything. But I do know if we believe in human rights if we believe in human decency, we must respond somehow. We cannot allow such abysmal treatment and such callous disregard for human rights to go unnoticed or unanswered. Deniying MFN is not the greatest of answers , but it s the only one and the most efective we have at hand today. Besides the president of this country made a compromise with its citizens and with the international comunity of not granting MFN to China if human rights violation.

Apendix A


This survey of 186 countries expands a process conducted since 1979 by Freedom House. The findings are widely used by governments, academics, and the news media in many countries. The degree to which each country permits the free flow of information determines the classification of the media as free, partly free, or not free. The criteria for such judgments and the arithmetic scheme for displaying the judgments are described below. Assigning numerical points facilitates judgment. Countries scoring 0 to 30 are regarded as having a free press; 31 to 60 a partly-free press; 61 to 100 a not-free press.

The criteria: As with Freedom in the World (the annual Freedom House assessment of political rights and civil liberties), this study is based on universal criteria. The starting point is the smallest, most universal unit of concern: the individual. We recognize cultural differences, diverse national interests, and varying levels of economic development. Yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers. (Article 19)

The operative word for this survey is everyone All states, from the most democratic to the most authoritarian, are committed to this doctrine through the UN system. To deny that doctrine is to deny the universality of information freedom a basic human right. We recognize that cultural distinctions or economic under-development may limit the volume of the news flows within a country. But these or other arguments are not acceptable explanations for outright centralized (governmental) control of the content of news and information. Some poor countries provide diverse reports and viewpoints; some developed countries do not allow content diversity. We seek to distinguish the reality in all countries.

The method: Our first concern is the structure of the news-delivery system: the laws and administrative decisions and their influence on the content of the news media. Next, we evaluate the degree of political influence or control over the content of the news systems system: the laws and administrative decisions and their influence on the content of the news media. Next, we evaluate the degree of political influence or control over the content of the news systems. Political power, even in the most democratic nations, always seeks to manage the news. Democratic systems, however, create checks and balances to minimize state domination of the news media. Next, we examine the economic influences on news content exerted either by the government or private entrepreneurs. This influence may result from governmental control of newsprint, official advertising, or other financial relationships; or from pressure on media content from market competition in the private sector. The fourth analysis records actual violations against the media, including murder, physical attack, harassment, and censorship. We examine separately the treatment accorded broadcast media and print media.

The numbers: The first three categories (laws, political, and economic factors) are scored 0 to 15, the lower the number, the freer the media; the fourth category, the degree of actual violations, is scored 0 to 5. These violations play a part in shaping the environment in which the media operate. Though we view violence and legal action against journalist as forms of political pressure, we add a discretionary 1 to 5 points to a country s score to reflect severity and frequency of violations.

Sources: Our raw data come from correspondents overseas, staff travel abroad, international visitors, findings of human rights and press organizations, a regular flow of foreign publications, a 24-hour news service, specialists in geographic and geopolitical areas, and reports of governments themselves.

Press responsibility: This survey does not assess the degree to which the press in any country serves responsibly, reflecting a high ethical standard. The issue of press responsibility often is voiced to defend governmental control of the press. A truly irresponsible press does, indeed, diminish its own credibility in the perception of the public, and that is reflected in the degree of freedom in the flow of news and information.



Strossen, Nadine, Strange Bedfellows; Serious Business , Intellectual Capital, June 19, 1997.

Judis, John B., Going through the Emotions,The New Republic, May 5, 1997.

Kolasky, Bob, Issue of the Week:Promoting Human Rights , Intellectual Capital, June 19, 1997.

Debate House of Representatives, Rights vs. Economic Might ,

June 24, 1997.

Sikkink, Kathryn, The Power of Principle Ideas: Human Rights Policies in the US and Europe in Robert Keohane (ed.), Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Intitutions and Political Change, Ithaca, Connell University Press, 1993, pp.134-170.

Nathan, Andrew, Human Rights in Chinese Foreign Policy , in The China Quarterly, pp. 623-643.


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