Give The Chinese A Break? Why?

U.S. - China Relationship Very Complex

A weekly commentary by Andy Rooney, the CBS News correspondent, writer and producer.


I was thinking I ought to say something about China after they released the 24 Americans but I didn't know what to say.

It's hard to get to know enough about some things to have an opinion.

It's too bad the Chinese pilot died. He seems to have been a good guy with a family, but we do know from previous pictures of him in action that he was probably hot-dogging it.

Our big, slow propeller-driven spy plane didn't chase that super sonic Chinese jet and knock it down. The idea of apologizing was ridiculous. The President dodged that by saying how sorry he was. How very sorry he was. How very, very, sorry he was.

We were spying on them right off their coast, and we wouldn't like it if they did that, but we want to know if they're about to attack Taiwan.

The other related story is the trade argument about China in Congress. The Commerce Department says we buy $90 billion more stuff from China than they buy from us.

I couldn't believe how many things there are from China right here in my office: a leather bag sold by that fine old Chinese Company, LL Bean; my shoes; my umbrella; my Japanese radio, made in China; an American flag, made in China. A company has nerve making American flags in China, doesn't it? American business has spent $100 million trying to get Congress to give the Chinese a break on import taxes. Why would American business want to make it easier for the Chinese to sell things here?

This is a list of just 350 of the thousands of American companies that do business in China. AOL, Time Warner, American Express, Caterpillar Tractor, Colgate Palmolive, Goodyear, General Motors.

How many Cadillacs do you think General Motors sells in China?

I couldn't believe how dumb I'd been when I found out why business is in favor of low tariffs on Chinese products. It's because a lot of it is not Chinese. There's no $90 billion trade gap. That's done with mirrors.

American companies own the factories in China. They use cheap Chinese labor to make things for $1.10, then they ship them here and sell them to us for $110. The value of the things an American company ships from China to the United States is counted as part of that trade deficit. A lot of that $90 billion so called "trade deficit" doesn't go to the Chinese - it goes to Americans.

I don't know, it's all hard to figure out. I was never any good with chopsticks, either.

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