WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE – AT 9:55 A.M. ET: A new poll looks dicouraging for the U.S. on the surface, but not to worry. From The Washington Post:
Facing high unemployment and a difficult economy, most Americans think the United States will have a smaller role in the world economy in the coming years, and many believe that while the 20th century may have been the "American Century," the 21st century will belong to China.
These results come from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted during a time of significant tension between Washington and Beijing.
Okay, there is some substance here. But remember back to 1980, when similar polls among Americans said the same thing about Japan.
"China's on the rise," said Wayne Nunnery, 56, a retired U.S. Air Force employee from Bexar, Tex., who was one of 1,004 randomly selected adults polled. "I don't worry about a Chinese century, but I do wonder how it's going to be for my three sons."
Asked whether this century would be more of an "American Century" or more of a "Chinese Century," Americans divide evenly in terms of the economy (41 percent say Chinese, 40 percent American) and tilt toward the Chinese in terms of world affairs (43 percent say Chinese, 38 percent American). A slim majority say the United States will play a diminished role in the world's economy this century, and nearly half see the country's position shrinking in world affairs more generally.
This is the way Americans react. We were discouraged at the start of World War II as well. But don't underestimate American imagination and entrepreneurship.
The results are consistent with recent polls by Gallup, the Pew Research Center and others that have tracked a significant public concern about China's growing prominence on the world stage, as its economy has expanded into what is arguably the second-biggest in the world. In 2000, for example, when the U.S. economy was booming, 65 percent of Americans polled by Gallup said the United States had the world's strongest economy. By last year, the United States and China ran neck-and-neck on the question.
COMMENT: Americans can always come out on top, but it will take improvements in our educational system, a low-tax economic policy, and, equally important, substantial improvements in the way we run certain industries. Disgraces and distortions in the financial sector can do as much damage, or more, as competition from China.
And remember, China has problems, too. They're substantial. They may well grow as the Chinese economy grows. And the country suffers from disunity and discontent. We tend to make our competitors into supermen. I haven't encountered any real supermen just yet.
February 25, 2010