TIP SHEET: U.Va. Experts on Sino-American Trade and Relations

November 21, 2007
Nov. 21, 2007 — As consumers head into stores or shop online for the Christmas buying season, they will find a lot of products from China. Recent recalls of Chinese products — due to lead paint on toys, chemicals used in anti-freeze found in toothpaste and melamine-tainted dog food — cause understandable anxiety among American consumers. However, these goods are only part of the relationship between the United States and China.

Here are some experts available at the University of Virginia who can offer perspectives on U.S. trade with China and its broader implications.

•  Bruce Reynolds, professor of economics

Reynolds has written extensively on China and was the editor of the China Economic Review from 1991 to 2000. He is on the advisory board of the Contemporary China Research Center, Beijing University and a member of the American Economic Association, Association for Comparative Economic Systems, the Chinese Economists Society, The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the Asia Society. His research interests include inequality, development and institutional change in transition economies.

"Clearly, we can't ignore product safety problems," Reynolds said. "But China is trying to put together, in a decade, an FDA-type regulatory system that took us the better part of a half-century to construct. U.S. companies and government agencies are actively helping out, and that's just as it should be."

"Over the next 20 years, our economy will become increasingly integrated with China's, to the benefit of both countries," Reynolds said. "That economic relationship interacts with the political relationship. Iraq notwithstanding, our China links are the most important long-run strategic foreign policy issue facing the United States today."

Contact: (434) 924-6746 (office), (434) 249-2525 (cellular), br3p@virginia.edu

•  Brantly Womack, professor, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

Womack studies comparative government and international relations, focusing on China and Vietnam. He is the author of "Foundations of Mao Zedong's Political Thought, 1917-1935," co-author of "Politics in China," editor of "Contemporary Chinese Politics in Historical Perspective," "Media and the Chinese Public" and "Electoral Reform in China." He is an honorary professor at Jilin University (Changchun, China), and at East China Normal University (Shanghai, China). His current research interests include asymmetric international relations, the relationship of public authority and popular power in China; provincial diversification in China; domestic politics and foreign policy of Vietnam and China's relations with Southeast Asia.

"The consumer shocks with the lead paint on toys and the dog food problems, on one hand, are the oldest trade problem in the world — caveat emptor, let the buyer beware," Womack said. "This is a learning curve for the global economy. Just because something has a label on it doesn't mean you can trust it." He said there are now more controls being exercised on the production and receiving ends of the process.

Womack said China is only one-quarter of the trade deficit issue. "We are importing things from China that we would import from other low-wage countries," he said. "China is the big challenge for those other countries."

Contact: (434) 924-7008 (office), (434) 964-1880 (home), bw9c@Virginia.EDU

•  Jeffrey W. Legro, Compton Professor of World Politics and chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics

Legro is co-director of the Governing America in a Global Era program at U.Va.'s Miller Center of Public Affairs. A specialist on international relations, Legro has served as a consultant to foundations, think tanks, publishers and government agencies. He is the author of "Rethinking the World: Great Power Strategies and International Order" and "Cooperation Under Fire: Anglo-German Restraint During World War II," and a contributor to "The Culture of National Security." He has written about China's future in world politics. He has been awarded fellowships from the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Institute of Peace, The Ford Foundation, Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, Institute for the Study of World Politics and Harvard University's Olin Institute and Center for Science and International Affairs. Legro has been a Fulbright professor at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.

"A rupture in the Sino-American economic relationship would be a modern-day Berlin crisis, likely to unleash a 21st century Cold War," Legro said. "The key to a workable global order is increasingly the U.S.-Chinese relationship. If that tacit partnership declines, so too will the world economy, Chinese political liberalization, and any hope of new consensus that might replace the fading Atlantic-led world system."

Contact: (434) 924-3958 (office), jwl4x@virginia.edu

Paul B. Stephan, the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Professor of Law

Stephan specializes in international business and economics, the Cold War, globalization, emerging markets and international business transactions. An expert on international business, Stephan has advised governments and international organizations, organized conferences, edited books and lectured on a variety of issues raised by the globalization of the world economy and the transition away from Soviet-style socialism. During the 2006-07, he is on leave from the Law School to serve as counselor for international law in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State.

He has organized training programs for tax administrators and judges from all of the formerly socialist countries under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Contact: pbs@virginia.edu (Stephan will be available after Dec. 1).