On May 24, the U.S. House of Representatives voted decisively to grant permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China. The vote came after an intense lobbying effort on the part of the Clinton administration that has an interesting legacy of relations with this Asian giant. Three former U.S. presidents and a host of top foreign policy experts came out in support of this measure. The Senate is expected to ratify this move when it comes before them.
This vote is a stepping-stone to China’s later expected entry into the World Trade Organization. Proponents of this bill say that American business will benefit from easier access to the vast Chinese consumer market. Tariffs would be reduced and trade would be expanded. American businesses hope for greater distribution of consumer items, which in turn would translate into more jobs for American workers.
Opponents say that the United States gives up far more than it gains. It gives up its right to unilateral trade restrictions. Since 1992, China has signed four agreements with the United States. According to a recent article in The Economist, China has only complied satisfactorily with one of those agreements, the one that protects intellectual property rights. It rated compliance with the other three (dealing with the environment, nuclear proliferation and private commercial disputes) as fair, “a bit less so” and bad (May 20, 2000, p. 21). Whether China will play according to the agreed rules of today’s global economy is suspect in some circles.
Another issue of concern is China’s record on human rights. Does this agreement give endorsement to grave violations by the Communist leadership? The Clinton administration’s own annual report on human rights in China found that China’s “poor human-rights record deteriorated markedly throughout  as the government intensified efforts to suppress dissent” (ibid.).
Historically, the concern over human rights issues usually loses out to trade and economic development. In today’s world, it is felt that open markets between countries lead to greater personal freedoms for the world’s citizens.
On the day before the vote, the Wall Street Journal had this to say: “Beyond all this, there is a final, most important reason to grant China PNTR. For 30 years the U.S. has worked to bring China more fully into the community of nations, and to promote both economic development and a more liberal society. The policy has been working. Anyone who saw China in the early 1980s and compares it with today must be amazed. Bicycles and drab Mao suits have morphed into traffic jams and bright fashions; the freedom and the range of individual choices available to the average person has [sic] expanded exponentially. After years of estrangement, China is asking to join the international community. To turn it down at the very moment it is moving in the direction we have desired would be a tragic and historic mistake” (Internet edition, May 23, 2000).
Great expectations about free market
The prevailing feeling today is that poorer nations will reach a greater level of freedom, democracy and prosperity as they are brought into the global economic community. True, there is some evidence that leads one to think the road to world peace can be achieved by free market economics and the accountability that brings.
After the House vote, the Wall Street Journal printed another editorial showing the impact of the free market on modern China. It said: “…the China of Chairman Mao could kill millions of its own people and no one noticed; the China of Deng Xiaoping tried the same formula in 1989 and outraged the world and wrote its own, ultimate death sentence. For all the Communist Party’s undeniable abuses, it would be hard to find someone who thinks the China we see on May Day 2000 is not freer and better off than the China of May Day 1979, before Deng Xiaoping opened its door to outside economic interests. That process will now continue and hasten” (May 26, 2000).
The article concluded with this thought: “It is the very self-interest of economic development spurred by outside forces that gives leaders in developing nations incentives to do the right thing even when their hearts aren’t in it. It is this dynamic that carried the day in Congress this week, one that holds out the promise of making this coming century a much more promising one for the billions living with the isolation of poverty or oppression or both” (ibid.).
Proponents of free trade have long preached with evangelistic fervor that the way to end strife among nations and bring peace to the world is through market economics. This current period of globalization is but one more round in man’s efforts to create a utopia of his own device through free and open trade between the nations.
In the 1830s during another period of globalization, economic theorists proclaimed this message in England. Henry Fairbain boldly proclaimed this vision of a world based on free trade. “Seeing then, that in the natural order of things the triumph of Free Trade principles is now inevitable, magnificent indeed are the prospects that are opening for mankind. Nations will become united in the golden bands of peace; science, liberty and abundance will reign among the inhabitants of the earth; nations will no longer be seen to descend and decline; human life will become prolonged and refined; years will become centuries in the development of the blessings of existence; and even now the eye can reach to the age when one language, one religion, and one nation alone will be existing in the world” ( The Great Betrayal , Patrick J. Buchanan, 1998, p. 187). (See the August 1999 issue of World News and Prophecy for a review of this book.)
This expression of human pride echoes the account in Genesis 11 where Nimrod at Babel attempted to bring the families of the earth together in the first attempt at globalization. To prevent the fragmenting of talent and wealth, he tried to create a society whose goals were opposed to those of God, the Creator. It was the first of many efforts to create a human substitute for the Kingdom of God on earth. God prevented that effort just as He has every subsequent one.
Global system prophesied
Prophecy shows there will be one final attempt to create a global system that promises peace and prosperity. This system is described in Revelation 13 as a beast that arises from among the nations and inherits authority and worshipful obedience. Religious deception is combined with a political and economic power to deceive “those who dwell on the earth” (verse 14). Those who refuse to receive its identifying mark will not participate and benefit economically (verses 16-17).
This final revival of a system that dates to Nimrod and the Tower of Babel will once more attempt to unite the nations in a human utopia. A “peace” will be enforced according to the rules laid down by the leaders of this combine. Just as the ancient Roman Empire enforced its iron-willed “Pax Romana” over the lands it conquered, so also this beast power will create a peaceful and productive economic power. For a time, all the nations will grow rich beyond their dreams (Revelation 18:3 Revelation 18:3For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
American King James Version×).
Verses 9 to 15 of Revelation 18 describe in detail just how extensive the economic clout of this empire will be. All manner of commodities will be bought and sold among the nations creating a once-in-a-lifetime economic miracle. Verse 13’s reference to the “bodies and souls of men” hints at the great human cost that will be required to sustain this culture. While the world may seem to be spiritually motivated, God will strip away this façade, and men will weep and wail at the agony in which this system comes crashing down (verse 15). In the end, God will bring this revived system to its knees just as He did every previous incarnation.
Peace impossible by free trade alone
Can free trade and economic prosperity alone create the conditions for universal peace and freedom for the peoples of the world? Throughout the Scriptures, God teaches against trusting in wealth and uncertain riches. Reliance and faith should be in God and in Him alone. The Psalmist wrote, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalms 127:1 Psalms 127:1Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.
American King James Version×).
Free trade enthusiasts feel that the barriers of race, ethnicity and religion, which have been the cause of so much strife and division, will be torn down and that trade will unite the nations within economic bands of dependency and prosperity. It is a very simplistic view of human nature that ignores the inherent self-interests of all groups. The ties of race, religion and culture go very deep. Economic policies alone will not change the human heart. Prosperity, even on a worldwide scale, will not end war among the nations. One of the last deeds of this economic combine of nations will be an act of war (Revelation 17:16 Revelation 17:16And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
American King James Version×).
Nothing short of the Kingdom of God, brought by the return of Jesus Christ, will produce lasting peace among the nations. In Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
American King James Version×we read, “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”
No man-made economic system will produce the conditions necessary for peace and brotherhood among the nations. The Kingdom of God will not be created through the dollar, but by a change of the heart (Jeremiah 31:33 Jeremiah 31:33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
American King James Version×). WNP