Playing host and learning from our guests

This week’s state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao brings with it a lot of baggage — and not just suitcase and trunk kind. Issues of trade, technology, economics and currency, human rights, military competition and North Korea make a very large – and contentious – agenda. But rather than just going into these discussions with demands (which we must do), we should also look for area to improve our own policies.
As I noted in a posting last year, a key question is whether the United States is smart enough to learn from the Chinese — both on technology and economic policy. That earlier posting used the case example of the possibility that Chinese companies might build high-speed rail in the US. My argument was that there should be specific conditions for technology transfer to US companies, use of US labor and use of US suppliers. China (and other countries) have been doing this for years. We run away from such ideas.
The US need to act strategically in its economic policy — the way China and other countries have been doing for years. US competitiveness policy is stuck in generalities: improve education; more R&D; build modern infrastructure. Chinese policy is made up of specifics. Can we learn from those specific — and from the policies of other countries?
Thus, let us use the visit by President Hu to both look more closely at Chinese policy — and to hold the mirror up to our own face. That would be a positive path to improvement for both sides.

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