The Economist: Stop worrying and hug the panda

The cover (sub req’d) of next week’s Economist says it all: The United States is shaken up by China’s rise. The Economist argues that “China is a far-from-cuddly beast; but bashing it is a bad idea.” And the bashing comes from all sides, because there’s plenty of material for all sides to mine. Hawks on ...

601820_070517_panda_05.jpg
601820_070517_panda_05.jpg

The cover (sub req'd) of next week's Economist says it all: The United States is shaken up by China's rise. The Economist argues that "China is a far-from-cuddly beast; but bashing it is a bad idea." And the bashing comes from all sides, because there's plenty of material for all sides to mine. Hawks on the right worry about satellite missile tests, advanced submarine warfare capabilities, and booming military budgets. On the left, labor activists and Democrats in Congress fret about currency manipulation and the offshoring of increasingly higher job functions. The Economist, meanwhile, fears that all of this worrying will make it harder to tackle genuine problems—and opportunities—in the U.S.-China relationship.

The cover (sub req’d) of next week’s Economist says it all: The United States is shaken up by China’s rise. The Economist argues that “China is a far-from-cuddly beast; but bashing it is a bad idea.” And the bashing comes from all sides, because there’s plenty of material for all sides to mine. Hawks on the right worry about satellite missile tests, advanced submarine warfare capabilities, and booming military budgets. On the left, labor activists and Democrats in Congress fret about currency manipulation and the offshoring of increasingly higher job functions. The Economist, meanwhile, fears that all of this worrying will make it harder to tackle genuine problems—and opportunities—in the U.S.-China relationship.

Where you stand on China usually depends on where you sit. Consider, for instance, the panel for this sold-out “Intelligence Squared” debate event that took place in New York last night. The question up for discussion, Oxford-style, was whether “a booming China spells trouble for America.”

The “trouble” side was all prominent security types: Bill Gertz, Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Times, John Mearsheimer, realist IR scholar and FP contributor, and Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon consultant and China über-hawk who was reputedly close to Donald Rumsfeld.

On the “not trouble” side of the debate were all distinguished economic and diplomatic types: Institute for International Economic fellow Daniel H. Rosen, former Dow Jones China chief James McGregor, and former U.S. Ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy.

The transcript of the debate is not yet available, so I don’t know what was said. But my guess is that the two sides—military and economic/political—talked past one another, and listeners were left weighing security apples against economic oranges. The essays by Gertz vs. Rosen that ABC published before the debate suggest that to be the case. The purpose of these debates, which are funded by the Rosenkranz Foundation, is to “raise the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues.” That’s admirable, and the series is certainly thought-provoking. But wouldn’t a nervous U.S. public be better served by head-to-head matchups (hawkish military analyst vs. dovish military analyst, for instance) so they can better judge who’s right?

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