Trade Punishment for China Carries a Cost

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This may hurt us as much as it hurts you... Monday's congressional calls for Washington to block China's bid for membership in the World Trade Organization over the nuclear secrets issue won't be welcomed by U.S. exporters. "Although Beijing knows China needs it, WTO membership is bitter medicine because it forces them to open up their markets," says TIME Beijing bureau chief Jaime Florcruz. "A lot of Chinese industries will collapse in the face of competition, which is why Beijing would have preferred to enter the organization with the status of a developing country, which would give it more time to comply with membership requirements -- Washington has insisted that it take the fast track as a developed country."

Premier Zhu Rongji on Monday prepared for his visit to the U.S. next week at a press conference where he dismissed the nuclear secrets issue as a fabrication. "The press conference was a dry run for Zhu, preparing him for the challenge of putting on his best smile and reaching out to Congress and the American people to dispel doubts over China's intentions," says Florcruz. But a leader who learned his politics in a one-party system with a fawning press corps may find that dispelling doubts in Washington demands more than a smile.

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