China vs. the United States

Yesterday I was at the dentist, getting my teeth cleaned, and watching CNN for roughly an hour.  They spent almost the entire time (they did interrupt to let us know that Regis was retiring, sigh) discussing Hu Jintao’s visit to the US, how the Chinese economy is the second largest, and what the goals of the visit would be for both parties.  It was painful, and not because my teeth were getting poked.  The media, most members of the US Congress, and I’d say most of these groups in addition to normal Americans spend significant time talking about China in very abstract, basic, and historically ignorant terms.Here are some statements that are a commonly made with regards to China that I believe most China observers would take issue with, but are accepted as fact by most Americans:

  • China owns most of our debt, and therefore owns America, and therefore will begin to (if not already) influence the United States in ways we aren’t comfortable with, and in ways which would be imposible if they didn’t own so much of America’s debt.
  • China’s military power is a deep concern for both the United States and the West at large, and certainly a threat to East and Southeast Asia.
  • China’s autocratic government coupled with their capitalist economy affords them tremendous advantages to exert political and economic will towards being “the best” in ways the US and the West can’t muster.
  • China must demonstrate that it’s willing to behave responsibly towards the rest of the world and engage at the level of statesmanship that the West has long demonstrated.
  • China’s economic growth will continue unabated for the foreseeable future, and there is essentially almost no risk of a derailment.

There are a few more but these seem to be the ones that most people focus on, and simply put, the feeling is that maybe not now, but in the next twenty to thirty years, the following scenario could play out: China is big, they own our country, they could wreck our economy (either by wielding our debt against us or demolishing our superiority in competition), then kick our butts in a war.I’ve tried not to make these straw men arguments, and over the next few days/weeks I’ll deal with each and provide some counterpoint to each.

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