What’s your China I-Q? If you’re like many Americans, it’s likely pretty low, according to one global relations expert who’ll be speaking today (Monday) in central Iowa. "Most of us are underinformed about China and given its increased importance in the globe, that’s a deficit that should be remedied," says Nicholas Lardy, a professor and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington D-C.

Lardy is a panelist in tonight’s round-table discussion at Drake University in Des Moines, entitled "The Eagle and The Dragon: Cooperation or Conflict in U-S-China Economic Relations?" Lardy says while people may realize the key position China plays in the world economy, they might not comprehend the extent to which China’s important to the U-S economy. He says China is America’s "fastest growing, large export market. They are a very important market for a range of products, ranging from agricultural products to transportation equipment, aircraft, and China is basically buying high-value-added goods that pay above-average wages in the United States and I think it’s a relationship that we’re benefitting from."

Several high-profile cases lately have damaged China’s credibility as a trading partner, including lead-painted toys and tainted food for both people and pets. Also, China’s abuse of human rights in a host of venues is drawing protests wherever the Olympic flame is carried, in advance of Beijing hosting the Games this August. Lardy says: "There is plenty to protest about — China’s human rights policies and their policy in Tibet, in particular. Whether or not it will have any influence on Chinese government is a much more difficult question. I would be surprised if we see a substantial response in the near term to these protests." He says the Chinese government has "dug itself into a hole" and likely will not change its policies on Tibet.

What might change the minds of China’s leaders? Lardy says the effort starts with President Bush registering his objections directly to China’s president. "There are other diplomatic ways to bring our displeasure to their attention but I think the longer term goal is to get them more deeply involved in the international system, both on the economic side and the political side, with the hope that over time, we can change their behavior, and in certain respects, there is evidence that is working." In some levels of the international community, Lardy says China is beginning to "play by the rules."

Lardy’s most recent book is called "China: The Balance Sheet." Tonight’s panel discussion is slated to begin at 7 PM at Drake’s Sheslow Auditorium. Admission is free. Other panelists include: Susan Shirk, director of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation; Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Eric Shimp, a former U-S diplomat to China, a 1993 Drake graduate and policy adviser at Alston & Bird.