I am a proud Chinese-American and proud to have been nurtured by the best of both worlds. I am enriched by the culture and long history of my motherland and an America that offered me the opportunity to obtain a great education and live my American dream.
Naturally I have great affection for everything Chinese, from folk tales to historical legends to great food. I am amazed at how quickly China has caught up to the modern world and deeply moved by the millions upon millions of people whom China has lifted out of poverty.
Nevertheless, while I am proud of China’s accomplishments, what happens in China is not my business. I am an American citizen. My loyalty is with the US, and my vested interests and concerns rest with what my country will be like for my children and grandchildren.
Therefore, it’s time for me to take a look at how we can make America better if not great again. Since I have been thinking a lot about this matter, this is an opportunity to share my views with readers.
By the time we finally put the Covid-19 pandemic behind us, the US Federal Reserve will have printed multiple trillions of dollars, in essence out of thin air, to keep the economy going.
I can’t predict how all this paper money not backed by any asset will eventually impact the American economy. There are plenty of distinguished economists studying whether and when we will face inflation, depression, stagflation, devaluation, or some combination thereof.
Suffice it for me to say that we can’t in good conscience spend beyond our means indefinitely and expect our grandchildren and their grandchildren to pick up the tab and bail out the economy. We have an obligation to reduce deficit spending now.
This is where changing our policy toward China can make a huge difference.
Making China our adversary has been a deliberate, conscious and bipartisan decision on our part. It has been largely an exercise of one hand clapping. Many have already presented arguments and analyses on why a deliberate collision course with China is unwarranted and not justified.
My question: What is the point of picking a fight with China?
OK, so we don’t like China’s human-rights policy, and we don’t like its way of governing. Is that enough to threaten China and justify the cost of sending our aircraft carriers and battleships halfway around the world?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were all looking forward to a peace dividend. Instead we overextended our resources by sending our troops around the world. Then we were shocked by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and responded by instigating a conflagration in the Middle East. Decades later we still can’t extricate ourselves: still burning cash, killing local civilians, and shipping body bags home.
Why would we want to start another war in another part of the world, specifically Asia? Some say the 20+ million people on Taiwan depend on our protection. In reality, Taiwan is more secure if the US military is not there to raise tension and spark conflict, accidentally or otherwise.
It’s not as if the People’s Liberation Army is just champing to charge across the Taiwan Strait. In reality, without the presence of American military as a psychological crutch, Taiwan would be motivated to find a way to get along with the mainland and seek a permanent and secure accommodation.
During a global pandemic, sailing our naval ships around the world exposes our sailors to the danger of being trapped in hotboxes with no way of getting out. What’s in it for America to undertake such risks?
Any funds we don’t spend on weapons and troop deployments are funds available to improve schools for our children, shore up the bridges, pave the highways and put in a network of high-speed rail. What a difference such reallocation would make for the lives of the American people.
If the US and China could work together, we would be so much better off. A close collaboration of the leading scientific minds could lead to a quicker end to the pandemic and find a permanent therapy ready to face future mutations. That’s a real and significant benefit to the humankind.
Further, the most important and greatest long-term gain from collaboration is to stop the trade war. The pandemic on top of the tariff war that started last year has devastated the economies of both countries. Resumption of normal trade, going back to past booming business levels, will boost the economic recovery. Decoupling the world’s two largest economies would only sink both.
Since Bill Clinton, every aspiring US presidential candidate has accused the incumbent of being too soft on China, only to face the reality after taking the Oval Office that collaboration is the only way forward.
Donald Trump has been different. After being elected president, he has gone on to raise the tension by starting a trade war with the disastrous consequences that we are still feeling. Challenging Trump on being too soft on China won’t be believable.
Candidate Joe Biden needs to tell the American people that treating China as an enemy comes at a cost that we can’t afford, and it’s totally our choice if we opt not to go that way. For the benefit of our future generations, we need China and we need China to need us.
To paraphrase a popular commercial slogan: Getting along is priceless.
Dr George Koo recently retired from a global advisory services firm where he advised clients on their China strategies and business operations. Educated at MIT, Stevens Institute and Santa Clara University, he is the founder and former managing director of International Strategic Alliances. He is currently a board member of Freschfield’s, a novel green building platform.