Insensible proposal

Updated: 2007-12-22 08:01

It is hardly surprising when this country is victimized in the vote-wooing rhetoric of American politicians in the run-up to presidential elections in the United States.

Diverging values and systems, in addition to our increasingly conspicuous presence in the global economy, determine that we as a topic will be touched upon even more frequently in major policy debates on the other side of the Pacific.

Nor is it beyond our expectation that the scandals plaguing Chinese exports over the past year would lend additional ammunition to China-bashers in the pre-election drama.

Still, we find Barack Obama's proposal to "stop the import of all toys from China" astonishing.

It is not because it is anything new. We have heard plenty of this, but mostly from ill-informed people who either lack knowledge about the whole truth of Sino-US trade, or are preoccupied with bias.

It is different, however, when such an ill-advised proposal is put forward by someone who aspires to be the next US president.

A blanket ban is unfair in the first place. Investigations have found most of the recalls in the past year were the result of problematic standards for which American importers, instead of Chinese toymakers, shoulder the major responsibility. Ignoring this truth and dumping all of the blame on Chinese producers is an insult to the workers who toil at toy factories in the innocent faith that diligence and honesty will ultimately be rewarded.

Nor is it feasible, as 80 percent of toys on the US market are reportedly imports from China. Obama's promise means he will have to find alternative sources of toys once he is elected. That should not be impossible. Yet it will not be inexpensive, when the direct and collateral costs are taken into account. The real challenge facing him, therefore, is to make sure no quality problems arise afterwards. Otherwise, he will have to impose enough bans to deprive his country of outside toy suppliers.

Neither is it constructive. In trade, like in politics, partnership entails both the attitude and aptitude to be constructive.

China and the United States are not allies. But, like it or not, they have to work together once in a while, if not always. The proposed ban is a bad choice, considering that the current Chinese and US governments are making impressive progress in guaranteeing the safety of Chinese exports to the US.

(China Daily 12/22/2007 page4)