How China Won…

We’ve featured a few posts over the last week on what seems to be a spike in the use of competitive rhetoric to characterize the new global economy. Even the President can’t resist motivating the economic and education policies he favors by suggesting that the road to success — victory — runs through a competitive showdown with our Chinese and Indian rivals. (See here, and here, for example.)

Well, in this context, I can hardly resist linking a recent BBC article that interviewed a handful of Duke students, including one of the best ones I ever taught here.

We put together a team of Duke’s best and brightest – including three Chinese-born students – to discuss America’s place in the globalised world. We showed them a slick and controversial advert aired during the recent congressional election campaign by a group called Citizens Against Government Waste. Set 20 years in the future, a Chinese professor is lecturing students about the fall of the American Empire. Reckless spending led to crushing debt, he explains, before adding: “Of course we owned most of their debt so now they work for us.” The message: America, be scared of China.

The students’ responses are all interesting, and the first couple in particular cast skeptical light on the “competition” metaphor or framework everyone, from the President on down, seems to be taking for granted.

Jack Zhang, who was born in China but grew up in Pennsylvania, was dismayed by the confrontational take.

“It portrays it as a zero-sum game and that somehow Communist China is just the mortal enemy of the US and that the way forward is through competition of some sort. I think that’s the wrong approach.”

Sharon Mei, who runs an “Understanding China” house course with Jack, said the advert played on fear.

“What I was most hurt by was when they had the audience of young people and everyone was yelling in a hostile and malicious manner – these are the people on the other side of the world who will take us over if we don’t do something about it.”

 

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