We're Number 2! We're Number 2!
David Horsey's May 30 column has been sitting on the back burner of my brain pan because I just wasn't quite sure what to do with it. I mean, is he implying that we've shifted our national focus on a "cold war" from Russia to China? Or is he simply asserting that because our government has become so dysfunctional we've lost our leadership role? Or both? Because it's such a short column, I am quoting it in its entirety, contrary to the rules of fair use. Hopefully he and the Los Angeles Times will forgive me.
Despite prognostications otherwise, it is not inevitable that the United States will cede its place as the world’s leading nation to China. But if the American political system remains as dysfunctional as it is today, China may rise above us by default.
While China invests in infrastructure, our federal government allows the nation’s highways, bridges and power grid to deteriorate. While China puts a premium on education and research, our national politicians refuse to provide the resources needed to educate a new, diverse generation of young Americans to a level necessary to compete with the world or to keep American laboratories and experimental enterprises functioning at full power.
China is burdened by a stifling one-party political system. Still, decisions get made, action is taken, stuff gets built, things get done.
The United States has a two-party system that is so gummed up by unscrupulous political warfare, unending campaigns and ideological idiocy that it may as well be a no-party system. No party can get anything accomplished because few political leaders have a vision of a common national interest that rises in importance above partisan advantage.
If China wins the future, it will happen because American leaders failed to stay in the game. [Emphasis added]
It's pretty hard to disagree with any of Horsey's assertions, but I think he has oversimplified things just a tad.
Yes, China has become an economic powerhouse, and, yes, that huge nation has locked in energy and mineral contracts with Iraq, Iran, and Latin America. But that hasn't been cost-free. Right now, China is suffering from some huge pollution problems, problems that affect the entire world, not just China.
China is a major exporter to the world, but in most parts of the world, governments have opted for austerity programs to kick-start their economies, programs which, of course, have had the opposite effect. What happens when other countries can't afford to buy Chinese goods? Will buying companies in other countries make up for that? That remains to be seen.
Finally, China has become a creditor nation, especially for the US. We fought two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) off-budget under George W. Bush by borrowing huge sums from China. Unless our economic picture brightens, those loans will remain unpaid. Then what?
Horsey is right that China is rapidly becoming the number one power in the world, if it isn't already, but our dysfunctional government is only one part of the problem. And China will be facing its own challenges in both the short and the long term.