Trade Wars

America’s greatest danger is not China. It’s ourselves

China’s increasingly aggressive geopolitical and economic stance in the world is triggering a violent bipartisan backlash in America. It is good if this leads to more public investment in basic research, education and infrastructure, as the Sputnik shock of the late 1950s did. But it also presents dangers.

Over 60 years ago, the sudden, palpable fear that the Soviet Union was ahead of us shook America from post-war appeasement and spurred the nation to do what it should have done since. many years. The result has been to increase American productivity and wages for a generation, even though we have done so under the pretext of national defense; we called it the National Defense Education Act and the National Defense Highway Act, and we relied on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration for basic research leading to semiconductors, satellite technology, and the Internet.

When the Soviet Union began to implode, America found its next foil in Japan. Japanese-made cars were taking market share from the Big Three automakers. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi bought a substantial stake in Rockefeller Center, Sony bought Columbia Pictures, and Nintendo considered buying the Seattle Mariners.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, countless Congressional hearings were held on the Japanese “challenge” to American competitiveness and the Japanese “threat” to American jobs.

Chinese President Xi Jinping applauds after the announcement of the result of the vote on changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system during the closing session of the National People’s Assembly (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11, 2021 .
NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP via Getty Images

And a tide of books demonized Japan: that of Pat Choate Agents of influence argued that Tokyo’s so-called awards to influential Americans were designed to achieve “effective political domination over the United States.” Clyde Prestowitz Stock markets argued that due to our inability to adequately respond to the Japanese challenge, “the power of the United States and the quality of American life is declining rapidly in all respects.” William S. Dietrich In the shade of the rising sun asserted that Japan “threatens our way of life and ultimately our freedoms as much as the past dangers of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.” Robert Zielinski and Nigel Holloway Unequal actions argued that Japan rigged its capital markets to undermine US companies. that of Daniel Burstein Yen! Japan’s New Financial Empire and Its Threat to America claimed that Japan’s growing power put the United States in danger of falling prey to a “hostile Japanese world order”.

Here we go : The Japanese power play,The coming war with Japan, Zaibatsu America: How Japanese Companies Colonize Vital American Industries, The silent war, Trade wars.

But there was no vicious plot. We didn’t notice that Japan had invested a lot in its own education and infrastructure, which allowed it to make high-quality products that American consumers wanted to buy. We did not see that our own financial system looked like a casino and demanded immediate profits. We overlooked the fact that our education system left nearly 80 percent of our youth unable to understand a news magazine and many others unprepared for work. And our infrastructure of dangerous bridges and rutted roads was draining our productivity.

In the present case of China, the geopolitical rivalry is palpable. Yet at the same time, US companies and investors are quietly making packages by operating low-wage factories there and selling technology to their Chinese “partners”. And US banks and venture capitalists are busy making deals in China.

I don’t want to downplay the challenge China poses for the United States. But throughout America’s postwar history, it has been easier to blame others than to blame ourselves.

The greatest danger we face today does not come from China. It is our drift towards proto-fascism.

We must be careful not to demonize China to the point of encouraging a new paranoia that further distorts our priorities, encourages nativism and xenophobia and leads to higher military spending rather than public investment in education, the infrastructure and basic research upon which America’s future prosperity and security critically depend.

The central question for America – an increasingly diverse America, whose economy and culture are rapidly merging with the economies and cultures of the rest of the world – is whether it is possible to rediscover our identity and our mutual accountability without creating another enemy.

Robert B. Reich is an American political commentator, professor and author. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Reich’s last book, The system: who rigged it, how we fix it, is now available.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.