My kidney doctor has a philosophical bent, which can be comforting and uncomfortable at the same time. Kidneys wear out over time, he explains matter-of-factly. Stop three people at random on the street and one of them will probably have chronic kidney disease – especially if they’re elderly, especially if they have diabetes.
So what ya gonna do? Cut back on protein, keep your sugar and blood pressure low, and wait for the inevitable. You can slow it down but you can’t stop it. Nature triumphs in the end. It happens to the best and worst of us, he points out. As the English poet, Thomas Gray, said, the paths of glory lead but to the grave.
And the same principle holds true in economics, my kidney doctor insists. Economies expand and eventually burst, he says, cupping his palms together like a balloon and making a hissing sound with his mouth. That’s happening in America right now, he tells Sandra and me as we sit wide-eyed in his office, trying to separate the good news from the bad. The American economy expanded to its limit and now it has burst.
There’s a lot to ponder in my kidney doctor’s lecture. And, of course, he is right about nature. The leaves sprout and grow green, and then become yellow and fall from the tree. As King Solomon said, all the rivers flow into the sea yet the sea is not full. To the place from which the waters came there go they back again.
But mankind has a role to play in the natural cycle. Nature’s ebb and flow can be managed. Deft hands can moderate the economic boom-and-bust cycle. It is true that America is deep in debt and trapped in a downward spiral that’s spinning off jobs like sparks from a roman candle. Without intervention, the balloon will soon be out of air.
But intervention has come. From China. Almost ignored, the once-sleeping giant is buying American bonds, pumping air back into the balloon, ensuring that the American marketplace will endure to serve the Chinese production machine. But I don’t think America will ever be the world power that it once was. Americans put their faith in the almighty dollar, and it seemed the dollar would reign forever. But the dollar expanded to its limit and burst – like my kidney doctor’s metaphorical balloon. It is now worth only as much as China decrees.
I know this sounds simplistic, and there are many complexities involved. But the bottom line is that China is taking over the world, without firing a shot. While Americans spend trillions on weapons of war, call each other Nazis and paint devil’s horns on their President’s head, the Chinese are working quietly and diligently, taking that single step in their journey of a thousand miles.
China is developing strategic relationships to open up new markets all over the globe. Chinese President Hu Jintao recently visited Saudi Arabia, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius; Vice Premier Hui Liangyu toured Argentina, Ecuador, the Bahamas and Barbados; Vice President Xi Jinping visited Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Jamaica.
And right now in Jamaica, China is exploring joint ventures with the island’s entrepreneurs in such initiatives as importing Sea Island Cotton and developing tourist resorts. Other areas of mutual interest discussed at the meeting in Kingston, included infrastructure and construction; manufacturing; and information and communications technology.
(Photo shows the Vice chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade , Dong Songgen (left) with the President of Jamaica Trade and Invest, Robert Gregory.)
This is just one small part of a concerted global effort in which China is providing other countries with financing and expertise and, in return, gaining access to mineral resources, trade channels and new markets for Chinese goods. With plentiful cash reserves, Beijing and its state-owned companies can secure access to strategic commodities now, while its competitors are hamstrung by the global credit crunch.
Even in President Obama’s dream of a “green revolution,” it is China that has taken the lead. China is prioritizing technologies to achieve energy and environmental sustainability by investing in technologies that are commercially available but not yet widely understood or deployed.
Meanwhile, the United States is racked by war, recession and internal dissension. Can America play a significant role in the new global power structure, and in the process renew its deflated economy? Yes it can – but only if (as Obama has said) Americans stop tearing each other down and start lifting each other up. This is no time to squabble over health care reform and call each other names.There’s a worldwide contest taking place and China is winning.