Despite Huge Trade, U.S. and China Have Issues

Last Updated Jun 17, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

The total value of trade between China and the United States was worth a brisk $387 billion in 2007 (.pdf), according to the Congressional Research Service. (And it's not only the U.S. that is investing in China; China is also investing in the U.S.)

So it's not surprising that our BNET feature, "China: An Outsourcer's Guide," by Geoffrey James, has been getting such traction. What smart business person would not want to find a way to tap into China in one way or another?

Yet, despite the relatively easy flow of money between the two giants, political and strategic tensions remain. Take today's article, "China denies hacking US politicians' computers," which appeared in ZDNet Asia. U.S. Representatives, Frank Wolf of Virginia and Chris Smith of New Jersey, say that in 2006 and 2007 their computers were compromised, and implicated Chinese hackers.

"My suspicion is that I was targeted by Chinese sources because of my long history of speaking out about China's abysmal human rights record," Wolf is quoted as saying.

China denies the claim. "Is there any evidence?" asked Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

Well, what of it? What's that got to do with you? When you do business with China, you're going to heed James' unspoken rules and keep your trap shut about the government and politics, right?

You'd best be careful there, too. Because you've got to be mindful of sensibilities in the U.S. â€" and elsewhere in the world â€" as well. Not only can silence on human rights issues can be construed as complicity, there's always the danger of falling into complicity outright, wittingly or unwittingly.

And no one wants to end up doing the Jerry Yang three-bow on international TV.