The editors of the Washington Post, backed into a corner, endorse a policy of reciprocity with respect to China:

There is a basic asymmetry at work. China, a closed society under the authoritarian rule of a party-state, wants journalists to serve up propaganda, not exposés. The United States and others in the West are open societies that see journalism as a legitimate, probing function key to democracy. China is free to send journalists to the United States — and it has sent many — while regularly restricting those from the United States working in China. The imbalance also exists in academia: China’s professors can visit the United States, but U.S. scholars face sharp limits on access to China. A recent report from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University on Chinese influence and U.S. interests made this point: “The idea that a Western TV news network could lease a Chinese station and broadcast news to China around the clock — as their Chinese counterparts do here in the United States — is not even thinkable.”

For many years, U.S. policy was guided by the logic that it is best to remain open, to showcase a commitment to values and principle. But what if China doesn’t care and doesn’t change its approach? The Hoover report suggested the United States should demand reciprocity; when U.S. journalists are denied visas, “the US State Department should respond in kind by restricting visas and access for Chinese journalists in the United States.” In other words, an open door must swing both ways.

One of Robert Conquest’s “laws of politics” is that everyone is conservative about whatever he knows best and this is a wonderful example of that. The editors demand reciprocity when journalism is at stake but condemn it with respect to trade despite China’s manifest failure to maintain labor, environment, and health and safety standards, its pegging the yuan to the dollar, i.e. “currency manipulation”, and its requirements that American businesses transfer their proprietary technologies to China in order to do business with China in contravention of the responsibilities they assumed when joining the World Trade Organization.

I don’t know whether the editors are hypocritical, are learning, or are just conservative about what they know best.

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