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How much censorship is there in China today?
A lot. The topics that people try to engage in, talking about Taiwan or Tibetans, will be censored. But the people are very creative, and the censors are always one or two steps behind.
And human rights?
It’s getting worse. With the Arab Spring, the leaders are very fearful of some-thing similar happening within China. So there’s been a significant crackdown on dissension.
What do they fear?
I think they fear for the control of the Communist Party. They see that as people become more prosperous, they have higher expectations that the government cannot meet. And therefore there is a rush to produce the kind of economic resources that will at least soften the domestic tension. Wages are going up in China, and so they’re very concerned about keeping the economic engine going so that more people can rise and aspire and actually enter the middle class. That means more domestic consumption.
And that will be a market for U.S. companies?
That’s right. The Chinese have a love affair with things that are made in the U.S. And they have enormous needs, whether for feeding their people, to medical devices, to technology to clean the air or clean up rivers and streams, to construction materials and energy-efficient technology.
I recently saw a suggestion that there may be a decline in the Chinese level of GDP growth to 7 percent or 8 percent.
Even the Chinese government believes their growth will slow down from their double-digit growth of the last several years to perhaps around 7, 8, or 9 percent. With a population of 1.3 billion, just to provide jobs for the people that are coming from the countryside as well as those who are graduating from the colleges and universities, the Chinese need to have very robust growth. Otherwise it could lead to social instability and discontent, and that’s what the Chinese leaders are most concerned about.
What did you think of Mitt Romney’s remarks about the Chinese manipulating their currency?
We’ve seen just within about the last year almost a 10 percent appreciation of their currency, but the position of the U.S. is very clear that it is still undervalued and it has to appreciate, and at a faster rate. We’ve seen progress over the last year and a half already, and when you combine the effects of inflation, their currency has risen by almost 10 percent. Of course, more needs to be done.
We’ve had Chinese students here for a long time who come to our universities. Will that make for a different attitude about China’s role in the world, its relationship with the U.S., and its attitude about human rights and security?
About 160,000 Chinese students come to America every year. I believe that exposure to our way of life, our freedom, our openness as a society whets their appetite for similar freedoms and progress and openness within China.
So what do you worry about?
Some 800,000 jobs here are dependent on American-made goods and services being sold to China, from our soybeans to airplanes to machinery. So we have an interest in greater prosperity of the Chinese, which creates more markets for us. At the same time we cannot ignore our values like human rights, where we see the climate getting worse in China.
It’s said that the primary drive for more protection of intellectual property in China will be the success of Chinese technology companies.
I’ve heard from just as many Chinese entrepreneurs who have complained about the inadequate protections for intellectual property rights as I have from American companies. It’s going to be both foreigners as well as Chinese companies and innovators within China that will succeed in getting us greater protections for intellectual property rights.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick recently asked if China was ready to be a “stakeholder”in the world. Have they answered that question?
We welcome a strong and prosperous China that assumes a greater role in world affairs. We’re seeing some of that now, but a lot of it is motivated by their economic self-interests. But they are also involved in some of the peacekeeping efforts and initiatives. We would like to see even more.
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