Shopping in China
“Early in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” a Chinese-Singaporean father admonishes his young kids to finish their dinner, saying, “Think of all the starving children in America.” I’m sure that everyone of my generation in the theater laughed at that joke. After all, we’d all been raised on the line: “Finish your dinner. Think of all the starving children in China.”
That little line contained within it many messages: The first, which any regular traveler to China’s biggest urban areas can tell you, is that rich China today — its luxury homes, cars, restaurants and hotels — is really rich, rich like most Americans can’t imagine.
The second is that this moment was destined to be a test of who will set the key rules of the global order in the 21st century: the world’s long-dominant economic and military superpower, America, or its rising rival, China. And this test is playing out with a blossoming full-scale trade war.
What does such a test of wills sound like? It sounds like a senior Chinese official telling me at a seminar at Tsinghua University in April that it’s just “too late” for America to tell China what to do anymore on issues like trade, because China is now too big and powerful. And it sounds like President Trump, in effect, telling China: “Says who? Show me what you got, baby!” Or as Trump actually tweeted last week: “We are under no pressure to make a deal with China, they are under pressure to make a deal with us. … If we meet, we meet.” “
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