Saturday, July 21, 2018

Russia or China?

One thing you can be sure about, if America’s radical culture warriors are rushing to the barricades to fight the good fight against Vladimir Putin, if they are up in arms about the danger posed by Russia, Russia, Russia… the truth must be that the true threat to America’s place in the world is… China.

Beyond the fact, noted here yesterday, that Democrats and Obama administration flunkies are screaming as loud as they can at Trump’s Russia policy because they do not want us to form a judgment about Obama’s Russia policy, I suspect that what really bothers Democrats about Russia is that it the nation’s name sounds like Rush. 

They might hate Russia, but not as much as they hate Rush. After Fox News the true danger to their retaking of America is a man named Rush. I suspect that many of them imagine that Rush is a Russian agent. Why else would he be called Rush?

Anyway, David Goldman puts the Russia issue in perspective by explaining that, on the world stage, Russia is barely a blip. If it did not have nuclear weapons and if Obama had not allowed it to expand its sphere of influence, Russia would be a nothing country:

Russia has an economy the size of Italy; Putin has managed his slender resources cleverly and made himself something of a pain in the neck, but Russia's diminished position in the world makes any problem with Russia soluble in principle.

China, however, is a different story. Since we often ignore its importance and its power, Goldman reminds us:

China has four times our population and an economy that is already larger than ours on a purchasing power parity basis, and it represents a formidable challenge to American preeminence.

The American foreign policy elites missed the point on China. First among them, a man who still appears constantly on television as a China and Korea expert, one Gordon Chang. Being wrong all the time makes for good television. And then there is Steve Bannon who has joined Peter Navarro in advising President Trump that China would cave under American trade pressure:

The US elites didn't anticipate the rise of China because they couldn't believe that a country so different from ours with a repugnant political system could succeed. Gordon Chang first published his book The Coming Collapse of China in 2001 -- since when China's economy has quintupled in size. China succeeded, and kept succeeding. Yet we continue to hear (for example from Steve Bannon on CNBC yesterday) that China's currency and economy will collapse if we give them a swift kick. Steve is a friend, but in this case he's catastrophically wrong.

We underestimated China because we bought the idea that only a liberal democracy could sustain a free enterprise economy. Apparently, such is not the case. China’s economic expansion over the past four decades has been spectacular:

China is entirely different. Its per capita GDP has risen 45 times (that's 4,500%) since Deng Xiaoping began China's economic reforms in 1979. Although its growth rate has cooled from double digits to between 6% and 7% a year, China's economy still doubles roughly every ten years. China now graduates four times as many STEM bachelor's degrees and twice as many STEM doctorates as the US. During the past two years, moreover, Chinese applications to US graduate schools (where foreign students comprise about 4/5 of all students) have dropped by about half during the past couple of years, because Chinese universities are roughly on par with America's in math, physics and computer science. One out of 3 Chinese university students majors in engineering. The number in the US is one out of 14 (and that counts Chinese foreign students at US universities).

Goldman continues that our concern for China’s unfair trading practices is misplaced. The problem today is that China is becoming an superpower in technological innovation:

What worries me is NOT that China plays dirty. Yes, China steals all the technology it can. But what worries me, and should worry you, is that China now is inventing a lot of its own technology. China's second-largest telecom company, ZTE, was about to shut down when the Trump administration banned the sale of the Qualcomm chips that power its handsets (ZTE paid a huge fine and agreed to U.S. government supervision to settle U.S. charges that it had flouted the embargo of Iran and North Korea).

America, he continues, is no longer doing very much innovation. You might console yourself with the thought that STEM students are becoming more diverse, but America is beginning to lag China:

Our problem is that we are still living off the basic innovations of the 1960s and 1970s -- fast and inexpensive integrated circuits, LEDs, semiconductor lasers, solid state sensors, flash memory, liquid crystal displays and solar panels. The big money made in U.S. tech has been in software (think of Google, Facebook, Netflix) or design (Apple), not in manufacturing. There's virtually no venture capital going into actual, physical production of goods. We are the geeks in a new Roman Empire. We're addicted to entertainment driven by powerful electronics provided by the Asians--China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Our biggest import from China is smartphones. The second biggest is computers. Making Americans pay more for selfies and Grand Theft Auto won't solve our problem.

Not an encouraging picture.


David Foster said...

"America, he continues, is no longer doing very much innovation. " Way over-stated. It is true that too much talent and too much venture money is going into "circuses:--social media, but when he ways:

"There's virtually no venture capital going into actual, physical production of goods."

I would remind him of this entity called Tesla. There are big problems with this company, IMO, I would not invest in it at anything like the current price--but it is certainly an example of a lot of $$$ going into a startup producing physical goods.

One problem is that the regulatory climate tends to be unfriendly toward physical-goods startups, and "incubator" help from state & local governments tends to be uninterested in them.

Anonymous said...

The Deep State hates and will never forgive Russia for offering protection to Snowden who showed the world what liars they are.

Sam L. said...

We know the Chinese are smart. And that our "prestigious" colleges prefer not to have them.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

100% agree with David Foster’s take.

I would also note that the educracy’s distaste for rote learning and drill as a cause for STEM lagging and other issues.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And it’s clear that Rush Limbaugh is the most wicked, dangerous and horrible man in the Leftist universe, 30 years and counting. There is no one like him. He is one of the few human beings who is irreplaceable. No one does it like he does... and no one can.

Ares Olympus said...

It doesn't seem to be partisan complaints about Russia. His own staff is making him make dishonest "corrections" on his dismissal of Russia's involvement. I did find it interesting in the Fox interview with Putin that he deflected away from the question of murdering rivals and journalists. Putin, like ISIS, benefits by a reputation of brutality. But the denial over the hacking business, it does seem like he's just trolling the U.S. and to get a one-on-one personal meeting with the president of the United States and get the president to defend Russia's lies - that's real skill.

Perhaps a blowout GOP loss this November would seem to have any power to break this strange spell? So far we missed out seeing Trump's revolutionary army if he had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college in 2016. I saw a blogger at, Michael Scheuer called for Trump to take out his rivals, or his followers will. So how close are we to Russia's dream civil war in the US?

Sam L. said...

"One thing you can be sure about, if America’s radical culture warriors are rushing to the barricades to fight the good fight against Vladimir Putin, if they are up in arms about the danger posed by Russia, Russia, Russia… the truth must be that the true threat to America’s place in the world is… China."

I see no evidence that any of them are against Putin.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Sam L.: Me, neither.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

No evidence... huh??? It's all they talk about: See this:

Stephen Cohen made the same point, and has made it over and over again.