Brain Dropping #86
NI Hau Ma? That’s Chinese for: “How are you?” (There are four tonal indicators I can’t do.) The usual response is: “Hen Hau!” or “I am good!” (That’s according to the Wade-Gilles system I learned at New Paltz State.) But these days Americans should respond:“Bu Hau!” or not good! The U.S. economy is headed for bankruptcy because of its trade policies, and “Jungwah” – the Middle Kingdom as China is historically known, is one of the most significant factors. China owns 1.317 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, about a fourth of the 5.6 trillion dollars in Treasury Securities bought by foreign countries.According to Forbes Magazine, U.S. debt is accumulating at a rate of one billion dollars per day.
As President Obama goes hat-in-hand to The Middle Kingdom, his Chinese opposite – President Xi Jinping is well aware that he is holding all the good cards. The straightforward explanation is that we consume more Chinese goods than they consume American products. Think WalMart! The Off-Shoring policies of American corporations have drilled huge holes in the good ship U.S.S. America and she is slowly settling toward the bottom. As soon as American corporations come up with a more efficient new production technology they ship it to China where labor costs are a pitiful fraction of our pitiful minimum wage. Any corporation that wants to sell in China must not only manufacture there but bring the best technology. These job destroying policies of so-called “free trade” (Not Fair Trade!) go back to the Eisenhower administration. For instance, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminated one million U.S. jobs.
Now here’s the sweet irony of it all, which proves that historically, what “goes around, comes around!” I know that for Americans it’s a strain, but cast your mind back to 1839 – 1842, the dates for the first “Opium Wars” between the Brits and Manchu China. The British East India company was producing vast amounts of opium in India and wanted to flood China with this very profitable narcotic and other goods. But the Manchu emperors believed that “The Middle Kingdom” possessed everything worth having and needed no “barbarian” goods particularly opium. The growing number of Chinese addicts caused the Chinese Manchu Emperor to abolish the opium trade. The British, in true imperialist fashion, with its navy and heavy guns, forced opium, at obscene profit, down the throats of the Chinese. There was a second such encounter in 1856 – 1860, thus beginning what the proud Chinese still call “the century of humiliation!”
What follows is what TV script writers call a “back story”. In 1823 an ambitious 23 year old American Yankee from Boston, arrived in China and began profiting from the opium trade paid for by Chinese silver. After amassing a fortune from the drug trade, he returned to America in 1851 and settled in Newburgh, N.Y. His name was Warren Delano. His daughter Sara married James Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s father. In a moment of unusual candor,Eleanor Roosevelt admitted that the roots of the Roosevelt fortune were deeply planted in the opium trade. So, historically, the U.S., that paragon of virtue, in one hundred and sixty years went from a war to force people to take drugs, to a war against drugs. In both instances it was ordinary people who suffered the most while the elite profited enormously. It would be great if President Xi Jinping, in a friendly manner of course, would give our Chief Executive a history lesson whose result would be a little American humility.