There’s a New Red Scare. But is China Really so Scary?

In the Washington Post, Steven Mufson and John Pomfret write that the current hype about China’s growing clout in a number of arenas says more about the U.S. national psyche than about the real situation in China:

In the past, when Washington worried about China, it was mainly in terms of a military threat: Would we go to war? Would China replace the Soviet Union as our rival in a post-Cold War world? Or we fretted about it as a global workshop: China would suck manufacturing jobs out of our economy with a cheap currency and cheaper labor. But today, the threat China poses — real or imagined — has flooded into every arena in which our two nations can possibly compete.

And it’s not just in Washington. Asked in a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month whether this century would be more of an “American century” or more of a “Chinese century,” many Americans across the country chose China. Respondents divided evenly between the United States and China on who would dominate the global economy and tilted toward Beijing on who would most influence world affairs overall.

“We have completely lost perspective on what constitutes reality in China today,” said Elizabeth Economy, the director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There is a lot that is incredible about China’s economic story, but there is as much that is not working well on both the political and economic fronts. We need to understand the nuances of this story — on China’s innovation, renewables, , etc. — to ensure that all the hype from Beijing, and from our own media and politicians, doesn’t lead us to skew our own policy.”

February 26, 2010 3:05 PM
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