The big story of the past 50 years has been the triumph of Western capitalism over Eastern communism ' although sometimes you begin to wonder. After 50 years, China has thrown off the yoke of socialism and embraced capitalism ' only to run headlong into Western protectionism. The US Department of Commerce has come up with another wheeze to fight off the challenge of Chinese manufacturers: tariffs of between 28 per cent and 46 per cent on television sets imported from China.
Chinese televisions, ruled US commerce secretary Don Evans, are being sold at beneath 'fair value'. It isn't hard to work out what Mr Evans means by 'fair value' ' whatever price happens to cause inconvenience for American television producers. The fact is that Chinese television companies are exporting their product to America at a profit ' and therefore they cannot be said to be dumping. That the number of televisions imported to the US from China and Malaysia has grown tenfold to 2.6 million in the past three years is largely down to the fact that for the first time in half a century the massive Chinese labour force is being applied to industrial capitalism ' just as the West wanted it to be. To accuse the Chinese, along with other Far Eastern nations, of manipulating their exchange rates in order to give themselves an unfair advantage is disingenuous to say the least: the reason the dollar has been so high relative to eastern currencies recently is that Far Eastern investors have been encouraged to subsidise America's budget deficit.
America also maintains a total trade boycott against Cuba, a country which no longer poses any threat other than the competition created by a low-wage economy. When it comes to tackling terrorism, President Bush appeals for international co-operation. It is a cry which will ultimately be snubbed unless the US is seen to put free trade above the protectionist demands of American unions.