Manchurian Paradox

The America-China symbiosis cannot be overstated. Beijing’s willingness to buy U.S. debt allowed us to live on credit, while our purchase of Chinese goods propelled their meteoric rise. But as the financial markets have soured, some in the United

Issue: May-June 2009

From the May/June 2009 issue of The National Interest.


THE CHINESE word for crisis, weiji, includes elements of both danger and opportunity. This symbolic meaning has taken on especially great significance in recent years. The emergence of modern China as a global economic power can, in fact, be dated to the nation's willingness to seize critical moments of adversity. That was very much the case during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, which marked a critical turning point in the ascendance of China as a major economic power. And it could also be the case today.

But there is an important catch: unlike earlier crises, it is not altogether clear that China senses the gravity of the current danger. That leaves it caught in something much closer to denial-making it difficult to seize the opportunity that peril can provide.

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