Thursday, September 20, 2012

America the Gutted: How big of a problem is China?

So the results of a Pew Research Center survey this week should come as no surprise: Americans, by a large majority, fear China's economic prowess.

Examine these numbers:

According to Pew, 59 percent of Americans view China's economic rise as a threat, versus the 28 percent who are more troubled by China's military power.

Sixty-six percent view China as a competitor, versus the 16 percent who see Beijing as a partner.

A full 78 percent believe China's large holdings of US debt is a serious problem.

Seventy-one percent see US job losses to China in that same light, while 61 percent believe the US trade deficit with China is a serious problem.

But how should we interpret these feelings and findings? And, on a more philosophical level, is the Buddha right?

First, there can be no doubt that this great economic shift from West to East has affected the lives of many middle-class Americans. It has also greatly influenced people living in China.

We have met countless people across the United States whose jobs are now being done by Chinese workers. They are, naturally, concerned about these developments.

"I wanted to keep a nice steady job until I retired," one US ironworker told GlobalPost. "What I want to do now is not get laid off anymore."

We have also met workers in China, many of whom are today working long, tiring hours and who have little sympathy for what this trend means in America.

"Their quality of life is much higher than here," one Chinese ironworker said. "[Americans] have better welfare and the lowest income there is much higher than here. I feel those workers don't actually need a job to live a good life."

America's $15 trillion economy, by far the world's largest, is still about twice the size of China's economy.

And while China certainly owns large amounts of US debt, that figure is only about 8 percent of the total — making Beijing the third-largest holder of debt, behind the US Social Security Trust Fund, and the US Federal Reserve.

Moreover, export-heavy China desperately needs to sell its products into the giant US market and therefore has a large stake in promoting US economic stability and strength.

In short, the US and Chinese economies are linked — at least for the foreseeable future.

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