Washington Has Lost the (Updated) Script on China

College student job seekers meet with potential employers at a college employment fair in Fuyang, Anhui Province, China, on December 8, 2023. (Photo by Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

One of the things I try to avoid when writing this newsletter is getting too far over my skis on any particular subject. Bold predictions or declarations of victory might produce clicks at the ol’ take factory, but they can quickly prove foolish and do more harm than good in the longer term. For these and other reasons, I’ve hesitated to talk too much about China’s very rough 2023. 

But the year’s almost over, the data are piling up, and … almost nobody in Washington seems to notice (at least not publicly). 

Indeed, if you were to pick up a newspaper (just go with it) and turn to the politics section, you’d think that China was an unstoppable economic juggernaut destined to dominate the world at the expense of a fading United States and other Western democracies. Just yesterday, in fact, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party released a big report decrying the CCP’s “multidecade campaign of economic aggression against the United States and its allies”—one that used an “intricate web of industrial policies” and other state planning to “achieve dominance in global markets” and “increase U.S. dependency on PRC imports”—and thus recommending a broad array of new U.S. trade/investment restrictions and subsidies (along with some decent stuff, too) to respond to this urgent economic threat.

Meanwhile, in that same (hypothetical!) newspaper’s business section, you’d see a much, much different China—one that’s struggling economically, thanks in no small part to many of the very same economic policies the Select Committee is freaking out about. Maybe someone could let them know?

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