Chinese Beer: Policy, a pint and trade talk

Policy and a Pint: The China Tradeoff July 10, 2008 Varsity Theater Review by Desiree Weber

In an age of propaganda and over-blown threats, it’s nice to just have a normal conversation every once in a while. This seems to be the sentiment behind the Citizens League and 89.3 The Current’s ‘Policy and a Pint’ series. Host Steve Seel played the moderator and lay-person translator to his two policy-wonk guests: Alan Holmer, Special Envoy for China and the Strategic Economic Dialogue and Tony Lorusso, Executive Director of the Minnesota Trade Office.

The topic du jour was China, its increasing claim to the global economy and what that means for well… anyone but China. After some introductory remarks and opening statements (of a sort), the discussion revolved mainly around audience questions. Is the million-man army going to swarm the beaches of San Diego and Seattle if we try to correct the trade imbalance? Will the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial be sold to Chinese investors if we can’t “win” in Iraq soon enough to balance our budget? Or are we going to be forced to learn Chinese if the dollar slips another 20% against the RBN? No, no, and no, (because those questions are ones a Republican candidate would ask when engaged in a time-honored pre-election round of China-bashing).

The actual audience questions ranged from softballs, like what the concerns and advantages of our relationship with China are, to personal takes on China from a Chinese exchange student and a soon-to-be English teacher traveling to China. And more light-hearted questions about why it sucks to be paid in Chinese currency (answer: because of the exchange rate).

So what are we to make of the trade-deficit, intellectual property violations and exchange rate imbalances? Mr. Holmer’s answer was unequivocal: we have to engage China in strategic dialogue, try to see things from their perspective and hope that their engine of economic drive doesn’t stall halfway up the hill. Or as Mr. Lorusso put it: there will be “no more important relationship in the 21st century, than that between the United States and China,” so we might as well make the best of it.

And if there’s any group of people that will make the best of it, it’s Minnesotans. Not only did Mr. Lorusso elaborate on the ‘strategic plan’ that Minnesota has in place to increase economic ties with China, we apparently also have a long-standing history of cultural exchange (and no, Chinese carry-out doesn’t count). All this edification for a ten spot and the cost of a beer? Not bad. Not bad at all. -- Desiree Weber

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