You are here

Congressional Research Service, "Is China a Threat to the U.S. Economy?," January 23, 2007

This Congressional Research Service Report was prepared by Craig K. Elwell, Marc Labonte, and Wayne M. Morrison. As its name suggests, CRS serves the U.S. Congress. Its reports are prepared for members and committees of Congress. They are not distributed directly to the public. CRS policy is to produce reports that are timely, objective, and non-partisan.
January 23, 2007

The rise of China from a poor, stagnant country to a major economic power within a time span of only 28 years is often described by analysts as one of the greatest economic success stories in modern times. From 1979 (when economic reforms were first introduced) to 2006, China’s real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an average annual rate of 9.7%, the size of its economy increased over 11-fold, its real per capita GDP grew over 8-fold, and its world ranking for total trade rose from 27th to 3rd. By some measurements, China has become the world’s second largest economy, and it could be the largest within a decade.

China’s economic rise has led to a substantial growth in U.S.-China economic relations. Total trade between the two countries has surged from $4.9 billion in 1980 to an estimated $343 billion in 2006. For the United States, China is now its second largest trading partner, its fourth-largest export market, and its second-largest source of imports. Inexpensive Chinese imports have increased the purchasing power of U.S. consumers. Many U.S. companies have extensive manufacturing operations in China in order to sell their products in the booming Chinese market and to take advantage of low-cost labor for exported goods. China’s purchases of U.S. Treasury securities have funded federal deficits and helped keep U.S. interest rates relatively low. Despite the perceived threat from China, the U.S. economy has recently maintained full employment and robust economic growth. To date, the growth in Chinese exports appears to have come partly at the expense of Asian competitors.

However, the emergence of China as a major economic superpower has raised concern among many U.S. policymakers. Some express concern that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest trade economy in a few years and as the world’s largest economy within the next two decades. In this context, China’s rise is viewed as America’s relative decline. Another concern are the large and growing U.S. trade deficits with China, which have risen from $10.4 billion in 1990 to an estimated $232 billion in 2006, and are viewed by many Members as an indicator that China uses unfair trade practices (such as an undervalued currency and subsidies to domestic producers) to flood U.S. markets with low-cost goods and to restrict U.S. exports, and that such practices threaten American jobs, wages, and living standards. Many warn that this situation will get worse as China increasingly moves toward production and export of more high-value products, such as cars and computers. A more recent concern has been efforts by Chinese state-owned firms to acquire U.S. companies and China’s accumulation of U.S. Treasury securities. Negative congressional perceptions of China’s economic practices have led to the introduction of numerous bills, including some that would impose sanctions against China unless it reforms its currency policy and others that would apply U.S. countervailing laws on Chinese products.

This report examines the implications (both challenges and opportunities) for the U.S. economy from China’s rapid economic growth and its emergence as a major economic power. It also describes congressional approaches for dealing with various Chinese economic policies deemed damaging to various U.S. economic sectors. This report will be updated as events warrant.

For full report please click (HERE)

Click here for a listing of reports released by the Congressional Research Service.