The United States has a China problem—and pundits and politicians are making it worse.
China is an increasing problem for the United States. But the latest reactions and assumptions about China among America’s political-media leadership class hold every prospect of making China-related problems much worse. How can this be? It involves the familiar tension between short-term political shrewdness and longer-term strategic wisdom. Here’s the pattern I see:
Back in the 1980s, when Japan was on its path of industrial ascent, I was based there for The Atlantic. In those days the longtime U.S. ambassador in Tokyo, former Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, said in virtually every speech that U.S.-Japanese interactions were “the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none.” Mansfield, a great politician and patriot, used this phrase so reliably and relentlessly that “bar none” became among the Japan crowd an air-quote shorthand. “We had a great time at that sushi place last night. The unagi was the tastiest—bar none!”
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