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U.S. Internet companies find themselves in the middle of the argument between the proponents of free trade and those who criticize China's record on human rights and freedom of the press.
It is hard to see anything constructive that will come out of these public discussions. U.S. Internet companies will spend more on government lobbying, and the Chinese government will view this as yet another attempt by the U.S. government to extract leverage on Chinese policies.
China represents both a threat and an opportunity. Within 40 years, China will have an economy larger than that of the U.S. What will this mean for the U.S.? Will we lose jobs, market share and military supremacy? Or will the U.S. prosper as part of the process of China's ascendancy? One thing is clear--the Chinese Communist Party plans to stay in control, and any attempt by the U.S. government to use trade or technology to undermine the position of the Chinese Communist Party will be viewed with distrust.
As the co-founder of a U.S. Internet company with operations in China, I understand that politics between China's Communist leaders and the U.S. government has a strong impact on my business. However, during the next 40 years, the diplomatic approach that the U.S. government takes in working with its Chinese counterpart will need to evolve. Mixing business with politics is not just bad for business; it is bad for international relations. The Chinese government will increasingly see the U.S. government as an unreliable partner that ties trade and business policies to the then-status of U.S.-China relations.
I believe we are moving in the right direction. The U.S. Congress no longer reviews free trade policy with China on an annual basis now that China is part of the World Trade Organization. It would be great if the U.S. government could maintain a consistent approach to restrictions on technology exports to China.
And I hope that someday I won't have to worry about another House committee meeting on China any more than I would worry about the House instituting a ban on French wine imports because of some disagreement we have with the French government.
Let's treat China as we would any other country of significance.
Harry Tsao is the co-founder of Mezi Media, a U.S. company that operates the Smarter.com comparison-shopping engine in the U.S., Japan and China.
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