Trade protectionism won't work for US: scholar

Updated: 2012-10-30 10:47


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SHANGHAI -- China scholar Robert Lawrence Kuhn on Monday said that China needs balanced trade with the United States as well as "sustainable reforms" to tackle its domestic challenges.

Talking about the long-running dust-ups between the world's top two economies over trade imbalances, Kuhn said protectionism will not work for the US.

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"There are people who clamor for protection of the economy in the US. It sounds good on the surface that you protect American jobs," said Kuhn, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation, a cross-cultural exchange platform that promotes good relations between the US and China, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in Shanghai.

"But in reality, it doesn't work because jobs won't come back to Americans, as they may go out to countries like Mexico or countries other than China," said Kuhn, who has written a biography of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and is also the author of "How China's Leaders Think: The Inside Story of China's Reform and What This Means for the Future."

Kuhn said the standard of living in both China and the US is dependent upon trade, and Americans buy Chinese products because they offer better quality and lower prices "or something they want".

"So, if you are to officially interfere with that, you will lower the standard of living of the American people, so that's not good," he said.

Kuhn said China can not continue to have a very high trade imbalance with the US because it is not sustainable.

"So change has to happen," Kuhn said. "China has to consume more materials so the standard of living in China goes higher."

"The two sides are so tied together that mutual prosperity is a stake that sometimes you know that nationalistic emotions get on the way, rational people have to recognize what's good for both," Kuhn said.

Sustainable reforms

Kuhn also said that Chinese leaders need to conduct reforms in a sustainable manner. The word "sustainable", which is widely used in China's economic and environmental policies, befits the reform model China should adopt, he said.

"I look to China's new leadership to be very concerned about reforms and making changes, as reforms now affect all sorts of things," Kuhn said.

"It's opening up markets and allowing media to become more and more free, as well as transparency and other aspects of democracy within the government, so reform has broad aspects and needs to be managed carefully so you don't have dramatic problems," he said.

"China has to keep managing the process going forward, but it still has to continue going forward."