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What the Senate's vote on means to us

One of the themes of our editorial board is to try to keep our topics local.

Frankly, people in North Central West Virginia usually could care less about a bridge-building project in India, a political tussle in Washington or a farm workers protest in California -- unless it somehow affects us.

So why, then, are we turning our attention today to the decision by Congress to put economic relations with China permanently on normal status?

Well, because senators weren't just talking trash when they called it an 'epic' decision, and hinted that it might be their most important work of this decade.

For or against it, a decision to open up doors to China cannot be taken lightly. It will have a huge impact on us here in West Virginia, in one way or another, probably within a matter of only a few years.

We are not inherently opposed to trading with China.

As President Clinton suggests, it certainly will "expand prosperity at home."

And, as he says, it well could "increase the prospects for openness in China."

It also could, indirectly, or perhaps even directly, increase the chance for West Virginians to get better-paying jobs.

Still, caution must be the watchword.

Previously in history, ventures designed to open up trade in that part of the Pacific Ocean have helped lead, eventually, to war.

Historians have established a telling link between the United States' Open Door Policy in China near the beginning of the 20th century to hostilities with Japan in World War II.

Will we face another war in the Southeast Pacific, this time against China, or another foe? It could happen. China for years has eyed the economic powerhouse of Taiwan. As the mainland moves forward economically, China -- like Japan in the 1930s -- might be tempted to expand its sphere into Taiwan, and that would almost certainly lead to a conflict involving the world powers.

Trading with China doesn't mean we'll end up in a war. It very well could lead to peace, as openness helped bring down communism in Europe.

However, it's important to point out that cultures in the Southeastern Pacific are vastly different than in Europe, or here in the West.

And the potential for friction certainly is there as businesses from across the United States -- and across the world -- will vie for a piece of a very big pie.

For example, the current tensions between China and Taiwan are, in fact, economic tensions.

This certainly is an important moment for our country, one that would seem to bode well for our future.

But caution and vigilance must be the watchwords.

Too many times in the past, the gaudy hopes and dreams of world leaders have died in a world aflame.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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