In 1995 then-President Bill Clinton extended Most Favored Nation status to China.
His justification for the move, coming as it did after ripping George H.W. Bush for being soft on China during the 1992 campaign, was believing we could make China a better neighbor by trading with them.
“This decision offers us the best opportunity to lay the basis for long-term sustainable progress on human rights and for the advancement of our other interests with China,” he said at the time.
“Trade is a force for change in China, exposing China to our ideas and our ideals, and integrating China into the global economy,” Clinton said when arguing in 1998 to extend China’s favored status.
In 2000 the United States government moved China to Permanent Normal Trade Status, and again Clinton was a cheerleader for the move. “We can work to pull China in the right direction, or we can turn our backs and almost certainly push it in the wrong direction,” he said.
Clinton was hardly alone in his views on China. They had broad, bipartisan support.
I, too, subscribed to them arguing in years past that among the best ways to pacify and reform belligerent, abusive regimes was to use capitalism as a lever to pry open their closed societies. It’s hard to stoke hostilities against your trade partners; it’s hard to stoke hatred against western civilization while watching our movies.