America against America

There has been some interest of late in an old book by Wang Huning describing his impressions of America in 1988 – three decades ago – when he was a visiting scholar. The book was written for his Chinese audience of that time, and was never published in English. However, some recent on-line translations are available, although the accuracy & completeness (always tricky with translations from Chinese) are unknown.

AMERICA AGAINST AMERICA, by Wang Huning - The Unz Review

Wang gets some attention because of assertions that he is Chairman Xi’s eminence grise, perhaps in the fashion Dominic Cummings once was to Boris Johnson – although hopefully with more smarts and more integrity.

One of the fascinating aspects of this book is how much the world has changed in the intervening 30+years. Then, an intelligent educated Chinese scholar felt like he was stepping into the future when he arrived in America. Today? Probably not so much.

In traditional Chinese style, Wang Huning categorized his early impressions of the United States in 1988 as the Four Cs:

Cars – so many cars, all kinds, all sizes. In those days, this was very impressive to someone from bicycle-riding China. In contrast, the Chinese visitor of today would feel right at home with US traffic, so similar to China’s traffic. Though the visitor might note that there are more old vehicles on US roads – and the roads themselves are really not up to the standards of China’s modern super-highways.

Calls (phones) – so many phones, in every office and home. Of course, today the US would look just the same as China to the visitor, with most Americans clutching their Chinese-made smartphones. Perhaps the Chinese visitor might smugly note that the apps used on those US smartphones do not have the quality and utility of a Chinese app like WeChat.

Computers – astonishingly, there were computers everywhere, in offices and even in homes. Today’s visitor from China would not be astonished; the US is no different from China. The interested visitor might note that much of the computer gear in the US is imported from China, making him feel quite at home.

Cards – so many of these magnetic stripe cards – credit cards, ID cards, phone cards. Today’s visitor from China would still see lots of cards, but now would wonder why Americans are still using that old technology. In China, it is all done with their smartphones. While cash still exists and hotels catering to foreign tourists will accept credit cards, most transactions in China involve direct debit from the Chinese citizen’s bank account via the smartphone. Even humble roadside fruit sellers and food vendors charge their customers electronically.

While we should be happy that human beings in China are now benefitting from modern technology, it is hard not to feel some regret for how little progress we in the West have made in the last 3 decades – and indeed how much of our former industrial and intellectual inheritance has been dissipated.

The positive message for us today from Wang’s old observations is that change is possible.

Germany and Japan made great strides to recovery in the quarter century after World War II. China has made great strides since Wang’s 1988 visit to the US, even though China before then had been crippled both by foreign invasions and by self-imposed catastrophes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Let’s hope that once the West stops crippling itself with foolish jihads against dubious problems like global warming and Covid, we too can get back on the road to progress. If we work hard enough, maybe in another 30 years a Chinese visitor will once again be impressed with what he sees.


I agree with your observation that the rapid emergence of China makes the progress of the United States of America seem less, but I do not agree with your characterization of the fight against the Codiv pandemic as an foolish Jihad, unless you consider that the Chinese themselves are the first of the fools, as they have a front row seat in this fight. This has not prevented them from surpassing the USA in several strategic domains. One can have several strings to one’s bow, it is sufficient that the bow is taut enough.


Patrick – my fear is that the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have taken the measure of our Best & Brightest and have been waging economic war against the West for these last 3 decades. And we have been too blind to notice.

Remember that the CovidScam began with photos & videos of well-dressed working-age Chinese men lying in the streets, struck down by the dreaded Covid. It got everyone’s attention (quite rightly!), but has never been seen again, anywhere in the world. Strange? But Western politicians went straight into “Monkey see, monkey do” mode, following what they believed to be the Chinese response.

Notice that overall age-adjusted mortality rates during this alleged “pandemic” are not unusual. Covid is no pandemic. Notice that the definition of a Covid “case” was changed from patients having signs & symptoms of a disease to healthy individuals having a positive result on a test with known high False Positives.

Then we have to observe that China managed to keep its industry humming while the West cowered down in fear, creating economic & social damage to our societies that will be with us for years.

In the age of nuclear weapons, kinetic war no longer makes sense for a major power such as China. But economic war is quite feasible. It has taken longer, and has involved a lot of foolish behavior by Western politicians, financiers, and business leaders, but much of the former US industrial capacity has now been destroyed (offshored) as effectively as by a sustained WWII-type bombing campaign. And we are beginning to suffer from the consequences – unsupportable government spending, unsustainable trade deficit, unrepayable National Debt. That will lead to national collapse – a real problem.

The only good news is that 99.7% of us have survived the Covid “pandemic”.


John Derbyshire began this week’s Radio Derb podcast by reading a letter from a listener in Southeast Asia who wrote to discuss the choice between alignment with China or the U.S. faced by smaller countries in an increasingly bipolar world. I have cued the recording to start with the letter.

Following the letter is a discussion of the issues it raises.