President Hu Jinao of China is visiting Washington state this Tues. Everyone from Starbucks to Microsoft to Boeing to Governor Gregoire and former Governor Locke are lined up to talk about free trade and China increasing trade with Washington State. In their eagerness to get more trade with China will anyone dare mention the words free speech and democracy to President Hu?
When Hu visits the White House two days later we know he will meet a kindred spirit in controlling and censoring the news and what people can see and hear. So we can expect nothing there in regards to free speech rights, like in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But what about Washington State? The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that ,
“U.S. tech giants are helping the Chinese express themselves online — as long as they don’t write about democracy, Tibet, sex, Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, government corruption or any other taboo subject.
Microsoft bans “democracy” and “Dalai Lama” from the Chinese version of its blog site. Yahoo recently turned over information that helped the Chinese government track down and imprison a journalist for the crime of forwarding an e-mail. Google omits banned publications from its Chinese news service. “
In the quest for dollars I am sure the talk will center on apples and wheat and jet planes and coffee and software. Right now China is getting the better end of the deal. The US Census Bureau as reported by The Economic Policy Institute said the international deficit in goods and services trade reached a record level of $726 billion in 2005, an 18% increase over 2004.
As the EPI notes,
“China’s trade surplus with the United States increased by 24.5% in 2005, to $202 billion, the United States’ largest bilateral deficit. This bilateral deficit with China increased $40 billion in 2005, more than accounting for the entire increase in the United States’ non-oil trade deficit.”
“U.S. imports from China are six times the value of U.S. exports to China, making it the United States’ most imbalanced trading relationship. U.S. imports from China were $243 billion in 2005 (an increase of 24%), making China the second largest exporter of goods to the United States, behind Canada at $288 billion. At current rates of growth, China will surpass Canada and become the largest supplier of U.S. imports within the next two years.”
But there is the additional cost here as the US tries to encourage China to import more American goods and services. That is the cost of the US turning a blind eye to China on censorship and free speech. Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo in their quest to increase trade with China have all agreed to Chinese censorship of the Internet.
Will anyone meeting with President Hu have the courage to talk about this issue? Or will the dollars signs of trade cloud their eyes and plug their ears?