In November of last year, a glittering array of world statesmen gathered in Beijing for Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum. At the top of the list was former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He was worried. With China skeptic President Donald Trump imposing huge tariffs on Chinese goods, the most famous living diplomat was concerned about the future of the United States’ relationship with China’s Communist government.
Trump’s actions, said Kissinger, had landed the two sides in “the foothills of a Cold War.” That seemed unlikely, according to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. “China will be a big part of the global financial picture in decades to come,” said the former George W. Bush cabinet member.
And then, Paulson made an off-handed remark that may turn out to be the most unintentionally prescient observation of the 21st century: “Unless something goes terribly wrong in China,” said Paulson, “no other nation will wish to decouple from its financial markets.”
Five months later, the wisdom of exporting millions of American manufacturing jobs and large parts of critical supply chains for everything from medication to ventilators to a hostile overseas power is looking ever more questionable, as a novel pathogen of Chinese origin has wreaked havoc on the American economy and locked the entire country indoors.
In retrospect, Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 meeting with Mao Zedong marked not only the opening of China, but also a nearly 50-year delusion about the nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its compatibility with America’s own economy and society.
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