Many years ago when Woody Allen was still kosher, he wrote a joke about his brother-in-law who thought he was a chicken. Cutting to the punch line, Allen confessed that the family didn’t want to take the fowl-minded brother-in-law for treatment because “we need the eggs.” Consider the tale an apt parable of America’s China dilemma. We want to cut ties, but we love the eggs.
How many times have you searched for some Amazon product, earnestly looking to ensure it isn’t a product of slave labor in China? And given up because a) it’s impossible to reckon where it came from; and b) it’s cheaper. What about Chinese state-owned companies listed on U.S. exchanges? Do you own stock? Better still, does your pension fund? Don’t know? Me neither.
Bet you were grossed out when you heard LeBron James defend the People’s Republic repression of Hong Kong. Embarrassed for your country when John Cena slobbered—in Mandarin, no less—his apologies because he called Taiwan “a country.” (For the record, it is a country, albeit one Beijing insists is part of greater China.) Did you cringe when Tom Cruise edited the patches on his Top Gun leather jacket to make sure the Taiwanese flag once there wouldn’t offend his Chinese overlords? Groan when Nike CEO John Donahoe called Nike a “brand of China and for China”?
Were you shocked by that New York Times story about the Chinese breeding a nation of social media Manchurian candidates, all of whom parrot the same praise about their lives under the Chinese Communist Party? By the arrest of Hong Kong press magnate Jimmy Lai? The concentration camps in Xinjiang? Chinese domination of the World Health Organization? COVID?