The AFL-CIO says that repressive labor practices have depressed China's factory wages by 47 percent to 86 percent, lowered the prices of Chinese exports and cost about 727,000 U.S. jobs.But
China's economic liberalization has been a vast engine of human progress that, in turn, has depended heavily on trade. In the past 25 years, reports economist Andy Xie of Morgan Stanley, China's economy has expanded by a factor of almost nine, but exports have grown 45 times. Here are some measures of social gains from the World Bank:And
- From 1978 to 2002, the average annual per-person income rose from $190 to $960. It's probably now above $1,000. (The U.S. figure: about $36,000.)
- Life expectancy increased from 61.7 years in 1970 to 71 in 2002.
- Adult illiteracy fell from 37 percent in 1978 to less than 17 percent in 1999.
- Infant mortality dropped from 41 per 1,000 live births in 1978 to 30 in 1999 (the U.S. rate: about seven)
Ironically, the AFL-CIO trade complaint actually debunks the popular notion that a job drain to China is a major cause of the weak U.S. labor market. Assume that 727,000 jobs were lost to "repressive" labor conditions (and some economists doubt the estimate). They're equal to less than 1 percent of total U.S. employment, about 4 percent of manufacturing jobs in 2000 or about three months' job growth in the late 1990s. The main problem today is not massive job loss abroad. It's feeble job creation at home.Via Russell Roberts
A cynical (but plausible) theory is that the trade complaint aims to embarrass the White House in an election year.