A cliché is defined as a trite expression. It’s often a figure of speech whose effectiveness has been worn out through overuse and excessive familiarity. Yet a cliché is also a type of short hand: an instantly recognizable illustration that carries a wider meaning in a shorter phrase. The recent triumphal visit by the Chinese President Hu Jintao has left many Americans wondering if Hu’s on first.
Most of us have seen something called a Chinese fire drill. This is when a car, usually driven by teenagers, stops at a traffic light and everyone jumps out of the car for a blurred moment of deranged rearrangement. The driver becomes a passenger, a passenger becomes the driver, a person from the back moves to the front, and the occupant of the coveted shotgun seat descends to the rear. This is an apt picture of the current state of international affairs.
The once world-shaking empires of Europe suffering the effects of two suicidal wars and decades of social welfare rot now stand in line to collapse as History passes them by. America, once the arsenal of democracy silently watched as China went from making our socks to making our I-pods, cell phones, and computers. Now as the light is about to change China climbs in the driver’s seat and says, “Hold it down in the back seat!” How long will it be before they’re saying, “Don’t make me pull this car over” if we keep impudently petitioning for a level playing field?
To watch our President bow, to see the communist flag flying at the White House it’s easy to believe China has assumed its place as the Middle Kingdom: the land between heaven and earth where Red Emperors sit on Dragon Thrones doling out cash to rescue the poor barbarians who can’t seem to balance their books.
Our trade policy, with the Chinese, resembles their famous water torture where drip after drip bores a hole in an upturned and exposed forehead rather than equitable relations between equals. Another fitting illustration for our trade policy with China is death by a thousand cuts. Whenever something was a long time coming people used to say it was on a slow boat from China. Now that almost everything in America comes here on a boat from China it’s beginning to appear that slow and steady has won the race.
For all the expertise of our mature government, that has had a century of international prominence, our negotiations with the novices from Beijing resemble more a bull in a China shop than anything else. We are bested at every turn often surrendering our advantages with all the wisdom of a man with a royal flush folding because someone else is bluffing with a pair of eights.
You might ask what any of this has got to do with the price of tea in China. The Bush dynasty, the Clinton Interlude, and the Administration at the End of the World have spent us into oblivion. They’ve exchanged the reality of being the number one manufacturer and the go-to creditor of the world for the mirage of being a kinder gentler social welfare state with our hand out. We politely ask if our East Asian Bankers could please in their infinite much appreciated kindness assist us in any of numerous foreign policy debacles, such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or North Korea. Our imperious masters smile and say, “Not for all the tea in China.”
It’s imperative that the Red Emperors on their Dragon Throne eventually squelch or emasculate any competing systems that allow their populations to have true freedom. As long as there’s freedom somewhere the inhabitants of slave states will yearn for liberty. As long as those in chains can see others walking where they wish as they wish uneasy lays the head that wears a crown. Consequently they must ultimately compete for mastery not co-existence.
So will our inscrutable financiers compromise? Will they relent and give our goods the same open door we give theirs? Will we convince them to abandon their mercantilist policies, which resemble nothing more than the policies we followed in the 19th century which led to our economic and industrial rise, and instead embrace our open border free trade policies which don’t seem to work so well for us? The possibility of Mr. Obama’s kowtowing bringing compromise or even respect hasn’t got a China man’s chance.
So are all these illustrations merely an illusion, or has China built a great wall between our inept leaders and America’s ability to maintain its place in the first ranks of the world? Look at our military stance with regard to China. Our leaders make assumptions based on China’s publicly announced defense budget when people standing on the corner reading local papers realize their announced defense budget is the tip of an iceberg heading for the USS Titanic.
In the past decade the Chinese launched 30 submarines while our fleet of submarines has shrunk. They’ve developed a stealth fighter that just by coincidence looks almost exactly like ours and while we’ve quit building the original they’re gearing up to turn their clones out like toasters. And for a real game changer our peaceful trading partners have developed a ballistic missile which can take out our Aircraft Carrier battle groups anywhere in the world.
As we flush our power down twin drains fighting insurgents we call terrorists, the Chinese are preparing to stand toe-to-toe with America on the world stage. Do they want war? Their greatest military genius taught them long ago, “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”
We watch as our hapless leaders bumble around like vaudeville comics dropping their hats and pulling at their ties as the scales of time tilt leaving America wondering, if Hu’s on first, “What’s on second?” After years of deficit spending and leadership by the twin headed party of government growth it may end up that “Don’t Know’s on third.” When will the lights go out? When will our increasingly imperious banker call the note? Perhaps only Hu knows Wen.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College Get the latest dispatches from the History of the Future and find books by Dr. Owens @ http://drrobertowens.com. Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook.
© 2011 Robert R. Owens