Over at TPM Cafe, I respond to the eloquent and dangerous Jeff Faux yet again:
I had written:
Is there a way to interpret Jeff other than as a call to keep China a society of poor subsistence rice farmers as long as possible--keep them poor, barefoot, uneducated, and by no means allow them to work at any of the high-value manufacturing occupations we want to keep in the United States?
Jeff Faux writes back:
Feb | TPMCafe: Brad missed the point. There are rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries. China is not just a society of poor, barefoot, uneducated peasants. At the top, China is a place of immense wealth.... Why is it that it is the responsibility of $40,000 year American working families to sacrifice their future in order to raise up the living standards of poor Chinese, when commissars turned capitalists ride around Shanghai in a different Rolls every day?...
I think it's time to put myself seriously in harm's way here...
There aren't many commissars-turned-capitalists.
Scratching on the back of my envelope, I find that at current exchange rates, China's GDP per worker--and there are 800 million workers--is $3,000 per year. (In 1990 it was $1,100 of today's dollars per year.) According to Piketty and Qian's guesses, the top 0.1% of China's workers get an average of $30,000 per year at current exchange rates. This elite of some 800,000 do live considerably better in their homes in Shanghai than Americans with $30,000 do--unskilled labor and the services it provides are really cheap in Shanghai because China is still really poor (perhaps at a level equivalent to $100,000 per year if you like being waited on and having a household staff; much less if you don't). Redistribute all the income of the 800,000 commissars-turned-capitalists back to the masses, and you boost median standards of living in China by 1% above current levels.
In 1877, it was the United States that was the rising superpower across the ocean to the west of the world's industrial and military leader. Today it is China. In 1917 and again in 1941 it was greatly to Britain's benefit that America regarded it as a friend and an ally rather than as a competitor and an enemy. And since 1945 it has been greatly to Britain's benefit that America has regarded it as a trading partner rather than an industrial competitor.
There is a good chance that China is now on the same path to world preeminence that America walked 130 years ago. Come 2047 and again in 2071 and in the years after 2075, America is going to need China. There is nothing more dangerous for America's future national security and nothing more destructive to America's future prosperity than for Chinese schoolchildren to be taught in 2047 and 2071 and 2075 that America tried to keep the Chinese as poor as possible for as long as possible.