03/31/2008 11:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's Time for Obama and Clinton to Step up to the Plate on China

Every day, America sends the equivalent of $700 million to China.
That's the toll of our imbalanced trade relationship with the
"butchers of Beijing." We send our manufacturing jobs, consumer
dollars, and technological know-how to China. In return, we receive
low-cost, under-inspected, and, all too often, unsafe consumer
products. China uses its $256 billion annual trade surplus with the
U.S. to fund weapons programs aimed at challenging U.S. military
supremacy in the Pacific, build a new electronic "Great Firewall" to
limit free speech and dissent, and crush Tibetans who seek to preserve
their culture and religion. A small portion of that low, low price
you pay at the big box store for a DVD player or pair of pants makes
its way back to the communist regime's coffers, which now are filled
with more than $1.4 trillion in foreign currency.

The recent crackdown in Tibet shows just how wrong those pundits and
politicians really are who claimed that trade will open China. As a
Senate candidate in 2000, Hillary Clinton supported granting China
permanent, unconditional access to the U.S. market, citing its
potential for opening China to greater rights. Senator McCain voted
for the bill, which was championed by President Bill Clinton. Even
former Senator John Edwards got snookered on this one. Senator Obama
claims he would have voted against this bill; only seven Senate
Democrats actually did.

Never have so many Senators (83 voted for it!) been so wrong. No one
can plausibly make the argument that democracy and human rights are
improving in China. No one can credibly make the case that our
commercial relations with China have benefited. China is the largest
unsolved international economic question of our time. So what can be
done now?

We can start by lowering our trade deficit with China. China should
stop manipulating its currency to gain a trade advantage. It should
stop subsidizing its industries to give them an unfair advantage. And
the administration can start enforcing our own trade laws which
safeguard American workers, consumers, and businesses against this
market-distorting behavior. China mocks our cowardice. But China
would not risk access to our market if America were willing to make
such access conditional on an end to cheating.

In upcoming primary states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North
Carolina, this issue is critical. The job losses are mounting.
Pennsylvania has shed 78,000 jobs due to our trade deficit with China;
45,000 have been lost in Indiana, and 77,000 in North Carolina. Let's
hope that our candidates get the message.