Being in a U.S. China Relations class, I am constantly bombarded with information about, well, relations between the two. I finished a reading today in Susan Shirk's "China: Fragile Superpower" that really made me think.
I was not very politically aware during the presidential election of 2000 and 2004, though I remember supporting one side over the other, likely because of the political opinions in my home. I do not remember much of what was at issue then, but I do remember that in 2004 and most recently in 2008 job losses to China were a big campaign talking-point. Also brought to my attention in Shirk's book was the attempt of CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Company) to buy UNOCAL (Union Oil Company of California) that met with such political opposition in the United States that CNOOC withdrew its bid.
Both attempts to stop sales to China and to stop job losses to China are examples of isolationism or protectionism, whatever you want to call it. Both go against what we tell China to do - we are being hypocritical. Both are also NOT reccommended by economists, at least not the ones I know of.
It seems to me that the U.S. government and the U.S. people want it both ways: they want a free market economy, and they want the U.S. government to protect and control that economy. Those two things do not work together. I understand the dismay at losing jobs to China, but the thing is, no realistic approach to government or economics can prevent this. We can delay it, but only with consequences to relations with China and consequences to our own economy. I am not advocating a completely hands-off economic policy, but I do have to say I agree with my economics textbook in that there is such a thing as over-regulation.
The conservatives should be ashamed of their false advocacy of hands-off policy. When it comes down to it, they do what they think will get them the most votes.
The liberals should be ashamed of their complete lack of perspective on economic policy. We can only "protect" U.S. jobs if we damage relations and possibly our economy in the long run.
Honestly, the more I read, the more I get the sense that our politicians are disgustingly clueless AND isolationist. I know it's tempting to stay comfortable at home thinking that only the United States matters, but we are living in a bigger world with lots of other people, other cultures, and other problems. I'm not saying we should try to tackle those problems, just that we should remain open to communication to the other inhabitants of Earth.