Harold Meyerson, at the Washington Post, traces the economic rise of China — and the relative decline of the United States, now deeply indebted to the Chinese — to a trade deal signed by President Clinton and then approved by Congress in 2000:
The U.S. trade deficit with China was roughly $60 billion in 1998, the year before we reached the accord granting China permanent normalized trade relations. Over the following decade, it ballooned to $268 billion, and tens of thousands of U.S. factories closed down. The trade deficit is the major reason China is awash in dollars — about 800 billion of them — and has become our largest creditor. And it is the major reason why boosting consumption in the United States, in an attempt to reverse the recession, has the peculiar effect of boosting production and employment in China just as much as if not more than happens at home….
So as we try to rebalance our relationship with China, let’s not entertain any illusions that our growing dependence on that nation was the result of an unalterable tectonic shift in global power. Our economic elites wanted the higher profits that came with cheaper Chinese labor. They prevailed, and today we are floundering to clean up their mess.