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June 10, 2005

Welcome to the New Chinese Century

Chris Charuhas

Hello. My name is Li Po, and I'm a student of economics at Tsinghua University. Please let me tell you, with respect, why my country will dominate this century.

Here in Beijing, my friends and I have long admired the United States. The 20th Century belonged to you. You developed the world's most profitable economy and unprecedented military power. Our best students went to study in your country not only because your universities were excellent, but because we wanted a firsthand look at what made you so successful.

Your country's dominance, as I've learned in my classes here at Tsinghua, was based on its mastery of technology. In the first half of the 20th Century, you led the world in production technology: heavy industry. In the second half of the century, as new technology spurred advances in distribution, your country produced the world-leading Wal-Marts and IBMs that took advantage of them. Then, in the 1980s and '90s, as high-tech was applied to consumption, you launched the Apples, eBays, and Googles that led the way.

What kept America on top throughout the last century? Mostly education and research. Your wonderful universities attracted the best minds worldwide, and U.S. government research and development funding helped create trillion-dollar products, such as electronic transistors, nylons, and the Internet.

But lately we can see that you're slipping. Your country is getting complacent, and abandoning the things that made it great.

Funding isn't flowing to your universities like it used to. Also, you panicked after that terrorist attack, and began making it very difficult for smart foreign students to get visas. This will hurt you, because your own high schools don't turn out enough high-level science and engineering students to fill the top slots at MIT and Cal Tech.

You're cutting funding to your National Science Foundation and other research facilities. Instead of funding studies that spawn new industries which grow quickly, your government caters to mature industries that grow slowly. For instance, big pharmaceutical firms recently persuaded your government not to negotiate volume discounts for its citizens. Unbelievable! We're getting rid of our state-run industries at the same time you're developing an industry-run state.

Your current leaders, in order to win support from the superstitious, refuse to fund the most promising biotech research. Fundamentalists in your country believe that working with meiotic cells is immoral. Our rulers cracked down hard on Falun Gong because they didn't want similar mystical nonsense taking hold in China. If you don't want to enter what could be a trillion-dollar market for stem cell-based medicine, we are happy to take it.

In my humble opinion, the United States' funding of its government with borrowed money, along with its pursuit of unrivaled dominance, is accelerating its decline.

Your previous president ushered in an economic boom by paying off your country's debt. But your current president lowered tax rates on your wealthy citizens without cutting spending, which is running up debt again at a tremendous rate. My fellow economics students and I don't understand why you 're letting this happen. But we're not complaining, because your massive debt is my country's good fortune.

You see, my government wants to keep the value of our yuan as low as possible, which makes Chinese exports less expensive, so our factories can expand as quickly as possible. This provides work for millions of my countrymen flocking to the cities. Fortunately, we can do this by sending our extra yuan to the U.S. Treasury, in loans to cover your budget deficit. This keeps the yuan low in value, and we create more jobs.

If you Americans didn't borrow so much of our money to fund your government, it would be harder for us to create jobs. But by loaning you billions, we keep our factories humming. Many jobs at these factories are ones that American workers would still be doing if you didn't take our extra yuan off our hands.

Some say that we will pull the rug out from under you. That won't happen. The United States is the biggest market for our goods, and we're not about to kill off that golden goose. We'll just keep selling you inexpensive goods, then lend the money you pay us right back to you, which earns us money a second time through interest! We invest this money in schools, universities, research and development, and all the other things that will someday enable Chinese to do the high-value work now done in Silicon Valley.

At the same time you're borrowing billions from my country, you're also squandering billions on a foreign policy that's doomed to failure. Your leaders' guiding policy document, the "Project for the New American Century," calls for exerting military control over oil supplies, and preventing the emergence of any rival to America's power. But the world is too big for any one country - even China - to enforce a policy like that. With only 5% of the world's population and a declining share of its wealth, the United States can't possibly succeed.

Your invasion of Iraq is a prime example of this. You foolishly allowed a guerilla war to erupt there, and now you're running out of troops and money with which to pacify that country. While you spend $300 billion in a futile attempt to guarantee your main oil supplies with military force, China is winning with a diplomatic approach. We're forging ties with oil-rich Nigeria, Venezuela, and Iran. We're developing political, economic, and military alliances with Europe. We're also making friends in Asia and Africa by dispensing over $100 million in aid.

China is ascendant, and we believe this is a return to the natural order of things. We Chinese were administering a vast country with a professional civil service a thousand years before the United States even existed. We were exploring the oceans in huge ships a hundred years before the Europeans. For a couple of centuries we lost our way, but now we're resuming our position as the Middle Kingdom, the central country that others look to for science and culture.

We welcome you to the new Chinese Century.

Yellow Cab
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