Dan Wang's Year End Letter - China, US, Opera and More

If any Scanner does not yet read Dan Wang’s annual letters, now is the time to start!
2021 letter | Dan Wang

Resident in China, Mr. Wang has many fascinating observations on developments in China and the US, as wells as on opera, books, culture, cycling, and more. It is a long read, but worth every minute. A tiny quote, just to give a flavor:

“An important factor in China’s reform program includes not only a willingness to reshape the strategic landscape—like promoting manufacturing over the internet—but also a discernment of which foreign trends to resist. These include excessive globalization and financialization. Beijing diagnosed the problems with financialization earlier than the US, where the problem is now endemic. The leadership is targeting a high level of manufacturing output, rejecting the notion of comparative advantage. That static model constructed by economists with the aim of seducing undergrads has leaked out of the lecture hall and morphed into a political justification for only watching as American communities of engineering practice dissolved. And Beijing today looks prescient for having kept out the US social media companies that continuously infuriate their home government.”

OK, one more:
“In the face of this challenge against a new peer competitor, the US has demonstrated a superb capacity for self-harm.”

As a personal observation I remain astonished that when the Covid panic revealed most medications in the West now come from China, this was not treated as a Sputnik Moment. But it was not. And we in the West are allowing ourselves to become ever more dependent on China for manufactured essentials.

Now that China has its own space station, its own rover on Mars, and the only rover ever to roam the far side of the Moon, is it not time for us to start taking China seriously and trying to learn more about it? The cynic would say that China’s rapid progress in space is mainly due to getting decades worth of expensively-gained US knowledge in exchange for some modest contributions to the Clinton Foundation; and perhaps that is true. Nevertheless, we are where we are now, and we need to adjust to today’s realities – something that a US Political Class stuck in the past is having real difficulties addressing.