Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Watching China Run - bset of the after-article comments - AMERICA BEWARE!

Watching China Run By BOB HERBERT

China has nothing comparable to the research, industrial and economic resources of the United States. Yet the Chinese are blowing us away in the race to the future.

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240 Readers Comments

February 13th, 2010
8:43 amAmerica has developed the mindset that doomed China to long-term backwater status centuries ago: a smug over-confidence about its own superiority.

Vast numbers of people, encouraged by the corporate media, think: "No, we don't want universal health care. Then we'd be unfree like the Europeans. No, we don't want our schools to place more emphasis on learning than on sports or senior proms. Then we'd be geeky like the East Asians. No, we don't need to learn foreign languages, because everyone everywhere speaks English. No, we don't want mass transit or high-speed rail. They're contrary to the American way of life. Yeah, we have to remake and dumb down all those foreign movies and TV shows, because who wants to read subtitles or see anything unfamiliar? No, we can't cut back on our military. Then we'd be like those wimps in Canada. Why should we listen to what those other countries think? We saved their bacon in World War II. Besides, all those Canadians and Europeans wish they could live here, and they should become more like us, anyway."

And most of all: "No, I haven't traveled outside the U.S. Why should I? This is the greatest country in the world. We have everything right here."

Recommend Recommended by 603 Readers 6.CJGC
Cambridge, MA
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amNo we can't.

Not only is Congress dysfunctional, so is our corporate economy. What we produced in the last decade was a real estate bubble and a huge amount of speculation on Wall Street, stealing money from the middle class, and even the poor, to make the rich richer. When this happens elsewhere in the world we call it corruption. When we do it it's just business with the powerful exercising their "right" to get even richer. The banks got bailed out with public money and are utterly shameless about giving themselves bonuses for....I forget what exactly, but they call it "success."

Corporate interests are successfully keeping us from health care reform. They keep taxes as low as they can so we have too little money to put into infrastructure. (China is getting high speed trains.) If the government should dare to spend money on anything other than wars there's a hue and cry about "socialism" (or maybe "facism" or Nazism or some other foreign ism). In any case, if some other country is doing it it must be un-American.

And still President Remove-The-Solar-Panels Reagan is thought by many to have been a great president. So sad.

President Obama can't be held responsible for the nation's determination to stay stuck in the mud.
Recommend Recommended by 499 Readers 4.Cdr. John Newlin
Vista, Calif.
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amThe irony is that while China is leading in the development of green technology it is also leading in polluting the atmosphere. It is estimated that 78% of the airborne particulate matter over Los Angeles emanates from China.

As far as the U.S lagging the Chinese and other countries in technological development of clean energy goes, Americans, particularly Oklahomans, can thank the likes of Senators Inhofe and Coburn as well as just about every talking head on Fox News who laughed and tittered and chuckled over how the blizzards that engulfed the Northeast were proof that Al Gore's global warming warnings were just too funny.

Not to mention that America ranks way behind 30 some other countries in math and science education. We, the citizens are our own worst enemies. After all, we put the men and women who represent us in power.

Money rules and the love of it corrupts nearly every state and national legislator. That makes it easy for those that are profiting from the status quo to buy Inhofe and his ilk. It's not going to change no matter how many brilliant columns on the subject great minds like Bob Herbert write.
Recommend Recommended by 404 Readers 18.chris
new york
February 13th, 2010
8:52 amThe problem in the US is not only with the politicians, but also with the American culture and attitudes toward greatness. You get more respect and recognition by singing a bad song on the American Idols than winning a Noble Prize in science. In China, scientists and engineers are heroes. In the US, corrupt lawyers, athletes who can't read, Paris Hilton wannabes, "MTV generation", Hollywood's dumbed down characters, etc., are gods. One nation focuses on superficiality. The other on substance. One goes for progress. The other stuck in congress.
Recommend Recommended by 377 Readers 3.Marie Burns
Fort Myers, Florida
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amToday Harry Reid said he liked the filibuster. We all know the Republicans like it, too. As long as China has a dictator who can decide priorities, & we have a dysfunctional Congress that can't decide anything, we can expect China to beat us wherever they choose to.

The Constant Weader at
Recommend Recommended by 321 Readers 7.Phil in the mountains of Kyushu
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amOh, jeeehz, where's your sense of fun?

Of course the Chinese -- and the Europeans -- are by-passing the U.S. in developing green and fast rail futures. America itself has no workers left -- their jobs have all been off-shored to 3rd-world cheapest labor sites. This has given U.S. CEOs and those atop high finance mega bonuses for their smarts -- but, hey, come on, let's have a sense of humor for the America and Americans left behind.

Look at today's headlines. America is opening a New and Improved front in one of its global wars -- one of the "stans." This is great -- it just goes to prove that all those teen boys playing their computer war games -- they know what's up -- they know America's real, true future -- war everywhere, constant war, war open to enlistees even today, all across America. And the Chinese are happy to pay for it -- they've got a productive economy -- of course they're happy to pay for the U.S. to be klutz police bully and nothing more.

It's hilarious. It's America. And this country has got nothing else for the future -- zilch -- nada -- but scenarios of adolescent explosions. What a laugh.
Recommend Recommended by 291 Readers 21.George Roberts
February 13th, 2010
8:52 amYou compare apple with orange. The Chinese and Americans are entirely different Species. The Chinese are cerebral and solid people. We Americans are physical and shallow people. WE American like watch and play sports with minimum brain activities, such as football and baseball. The Chinese like watch and play chess and bridge which most American college graduates are clueless. Over time, we Americans became dumber and dumber.
In China, a bodybuilder would never became governor (California Gov)
An actor, such as Ronald Regan would never became President in China.
A nuke model (scott brown) would never elect to Chinese senate.
To certain extend, success in America requires package, the superfical stuff. The Chinese are just not that shallow.
One Beijing University student once asked me "with all due respect, How come America general public are so retarded?"
Recommend Recommended by 287 Readers 22.Pauline
February 13th, 2010
8:52 amIn the eighties, I watched the last throes of the textile and garment manufacturing industry in the USA, even as we tried to find and work with domestic suppliers for the advantages of quick response and keeping jobs here.

We were confronted at every turn with bloated, spoiled, intransigent businesses that were imprisoned by old technologies and approaches and unwilling to move an inch outside of setups and systems that they assumed demand would always keep in place.

So we moved on to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and eventually China, who took on new ideas and limited runs, and were thrilled to have the business.

The same happened with the US auto industry, and it's true in areas as diverse as hi-speed broadband (not), response to climate change (not), and universal health care (nimby!).

THE ENTIRE PLANET IS LEAVING US IN THE DUST. The world is moving on, while we stay mired in bloat and intransigent, stubborn refusal to change and grow.

Our only solutions are the war machine and an ever growing corporate stranglehold on the nation's life and possibility, which are now sacrificed to corrupt, vested interests in dead, unsustainable technologies.

Recommend Recommended by 235 Readers 16.Joe V.
Chicago, IL
February 13th, 2010
8:47 amWe used to have a very simple and prosperous economy: We made things, we sold them, and we paid the people who mead things enough so they could buy them. It wasn't rocket science.

But the only thing Americans know how to manufacture these days is money, and money, when you get right down to it, is an illusion.
Recommend Recommended by 210 Readers 5.Kevin Cahill
Albuquerque, NM
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amChina will run right past us in science and technology unless they screw up their politics as badly as we have.
Recommend Recommended by 164 Readers 37.William Brody
Seattle, WA
February 13th, 2010
9:02 amMr. Herbert, China is not a poor country. It is a creditor nation. America is a debtor nation. One guess on who owes whom boatloads of merry dough after splurging on luxuries like two failed wars and tax breaks for the ultra-rich?

Also, if American universities are so great, what good are all those graduates going to do us if they are either a) unemployed because there are no jobs, or b) looking for jobs IN CHINA. Clearly, the brain trust in America has done a lousy job of doing socially beneficial things - unless you think of credit default swaps and bundling high-risk loans as beatific acts.

China - despite its horrible human rights record, invasive social controls, non-existent environmental policies (yes, I read about the wind turbines, jeez), and unfortunate privatisation of health care - is vaulting forward with bold projects that are the envy of the West.

Americans have been snake-bitten by their inflated sense of entitlement and enchanted by their past achievements. We sat on our laurels whilst everyone else innovated and invested. Here, we kicked the infrastructural can down the road just so we could say that any improvements to the system are now too expensive, so let's scrap them.

So China leads the way - so what? Why would I want no-one else but Americans to prosper? What is the sense in proclaiming ourselves the Greatest Nation on Earth at the expense of others? If Americans had any sense, they would approve and applaud deficit spending in the style of Franklin Roosevelt to get this country back on its feet: universal health care, resurrecting Glass-Steagall and the Works Progress Administration, and finally ending our shameful misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But no. Instead, we choose to fête oligarchs as working class-heroes, whilst simultaneously destroying the actual working class.

Neo-conservatives gleefully revile Jimmy Carter, yet his words in this article were prescient, and should haunt this country to the end of its days.
Recommend Recommended by 151 Readers 11.David Thompson
Madison, WI
February 13th, 2010
8:47 amIt's pretty clear why the US is being left behind. The big oil companies are doing just fine with the old energy system, and are doing their best to keep things that way. What happens to the nation as a whole doesn't matter to them, as long as we keep buying their hydrocarbon products. Even in the area of renewable biofuels, the oil giants are lobbying for and developing the least efficient alternative. An article in the journal Science recently revealed that it will be TWICE as efficient to burn biomass in powerplants, then use the electricity to charge the batteries of electric vehicles. Twice as efficient, compared to running vehicles on liquid biofuels. But when the US lurches towards renewable energy, big oil wants to make sure it's a liquid fuel they can still control--even if it's only half as efficient. Almost all the "green research" that big oil companies now boast about is research for liquid biofuels. But those are barely green, compared to the efficient alternative of electric vehicles running on electricity from burning biomass.
Recommend Recommended by 145 Readers 8.Bill Benton
San Francisco
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amAmerica today sometimes reminds me of England in 1776, at the start of the American Revolution. They were so focussed on who was gonna get what part of the English pie that they never noticed that America, even then clearly ten times their size and power, was slipping away.

Our congress is owned by the banks, insurance companies and military contractors. Their focus is on looting the taxes that most of us pay willingly. Watch videos on YouTube that dramatize this, search word AOE1776.

Banks don't profit from lending, they rely on bailouts and Fannie Mae subsidies, so they don't notice the whole world slipping away.

China is trying to undersell to the world so it will be their monopoly market. Chinese products that are inexpensive here are four or five times more expensive there. My Chinese-American friends often receive checks from relatives in China asking for purchase of made-in-China products to be bought here and sent to China! (I know about this first hand, my friends insist that I go to the mall with them.)

It's a wonderful world.

bill benton at
Recommend Recommended by 137 Readers 29.Chris Johnson
Berkeley, CA
February 13th, 2010
9:02 amBob - make no mistake, the US COULD be sprinting along, developing and implementing the same or better technologies. Who or what is holding us back? It's all the dimwits and nitwits in the Republican Congressional caucus. Just like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Congressional Republicans are marching in lock-step with the instructions they get from Big Oil lobbyists. Energy independence = bad for oil companies. Therefore, it's a non-starter. Talk about being bought and paid for. Once again, the American people have a crystal clear example of how the GOP is holding the country back at a time when it needs to move forward. Just say "No" to progress. Say "No" to the environment. Say "No" to jobs. Why? Because they don't want to help President Obama achieve ANYTHING while he's in office. These pigs are so corrupt, it makes me sick.
Recommend Recommended by 132 Readers 15.Turtle49
Las Vegas
February 13th, 2010
8:47 amThe United States is senile and yesterday. China is young and tomorrow.
Recommend Recommended by 119 Readers 14.Richard Calderhead
Palm Springs, CA
February 13th, 2010
8:47 amRight on. Why are we Behind the Curve here? In America...Private Capital (hisss) has declined to play. Why? You need only listen to Glenn Beck for an hear the sneering disparagement of Anything Green. He basically is calling Global Warming the Biggest Scam'Hoax/ the History of Man.
You continue to bring vital issues to the attention of your readers. Keep up the good work!
Recommend Recommended by 119 Readers 33.johnnyneuron
February 13th, 2010
9:02 amThe decline of the U.S. is irrelevant to the corporate interests which dominate our government. The rise of the Chinese consumer will more than match any loss in the U.S. Rugged individualism and the pursuit of profit at any cost are the maxims of the day. The ruling class doesn't give a damn about the noble ideals this country once represented. The poor and lower middle class are a mindless disconnected mass tricked into fighting over table scraps and kept in a constant state of isolation and fear through the continuous propaganda of television. God bless America!
Recommend Recommended by 109 Readers 13.Jay Casey
February 13th, 2010
8:47 amIf Congress (especially the fossil-fuel Republicans) don't get off their butts and actually enact the incentives for the green industries we need to reward them with a one-way ticket home. Yes, we need an industrial policy. That is how China has done it.
Recommend Recommended by 96 Readers 28.Michael
February 13th, 2010
9:02 amThe reason for this seeming dilemma is simple. Anyone with intelligence and the empirical facts can ascertain the best course of action for the health of the planet and the economy of their society. It merely comes down to accepting truth and logic, i.e., facing reality. The Chinese leadership, being practical men who intend for their country to prevail as the foremost superpower in the future, simply send down the necessary orders. The West, where power and wealth is sparingly diffused amongst a corporate aristocracy that competes intensely within its own circles, does only what is in the economic best interest of whatever cliques have the political upper hand at the moment. Right now that would include the big energy companies (including oil, gas, coal and the power grid). It used to include the car companies and other heavy manufacturers, but no more. Other present-day major players include health care, banking, finance, insurance, agribusiness, chemicals/pharmaceuticals, weaponry, communications/entertainment, informatics (interfacing of every conceivable thing w/ computers), law enforcement/corrections, legal practice and a few others. Nothing will be done to diminish their share of power or wealth in this country, even if that means sacrificing our ability to compete as a nation in the global arena further on down the road. We will continue to burn fossil fuel at maximum rates as long as the process brings profits to the shareholders. We will continue to pump chemicals into the earth to grow our food. Designer drugs will continue to pour forth to cure ills that haven't even been invented yet. Weapons will roll off the assembly line till there's nearly one remotely controlled robotic weapon per capita. Prisons will continue to expand at thrice the rate of higher education, and financial business will be carried out using increasingly opaque rules and arcane algorithms. The corporations don't formally make the law, but they will continue to buy the most effective legislators (and chief executives) that their money can buy. The Supreme Court has recently made sure of that. See? Mystery solved. The Chinese see and act on the big picture. Here it's every special interest for itself.

Recommend Recommended by 92 Readers 30.Yesh Prabhu
Plainsboro, NJ
February 13th, 2010
9:02 amYou have written, “Our esteemed leaders in Washington can’t figure out how to do anything more difficult than line up for a group photo.” You are clearly wrong on this because just look at these facts: They know how to vote for wars and send our men and women to fight on foreign soil and to even bomb and invade other nations. They also allocate time and again, year after year, hundreds of billions of dollars to fight these wars, even as they cut domestic spending. They did this even though there was no money in our treasury, by borrowing money from China.

Also, you wrote, “China is a poor country with nothing comparable to the tremendous research, industrial and economic resources that the U.S. has been blessed with.” If China is indeed a poor country, as you say, how do you explain the fact that it owns over a trillion dollars of America’s debt? Common sense tells us that a rich nation lends money, and a poor nation borrows. If China is poor, how could it lend such a huge amount to America, and why would the very rich America borrow money from poor China? Is this “new economics”?

Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

Recommend Recommended by 85 Readers 41.NY Nice Guy
My Mind
February 13th, 2010
9:09 amI think people know about all these things, Mr. Herbert - one rule of thumb I've observed is that by the time it hits Main Street, it's already old news.

What's problematic is how to implement these wondrous new things. It's like the Aesop's Fable about how all the mice got together and decided, eureka, that a bell should be hung around the neck of that nasty ol' house-cat so that everyone will know when he's sneaking up on them. But...just who will hang it around the cat's neck??

The vast majority of ordinary people don't care about the environment, and that's the truth. I mean really care, care enough to inconvenience themselves even just a tiny microscopic bit. At the tree-huggin' premier of "Avatar" by me the movie theater was trashed same as always, despite the audience having cheered loud and long.

In China, however, ordinary people don't count. It's a rule of the elites. Now a benign dictatorship is better than a democracy of idiots, just as a truly educated electorate is much better than a stupid dictator. So you see, it really doesn't matter the system; it's about the intellectual and moral quality of the decision-makers.

China will win because they have decently competent folks at the top. We have careerists at the top, and idiots for an electorate who despite knowing that "all" politicians lie never fail to vote the same damned liars into office.

After all, you get the government you deserve and all that!
Recommend Recommended by 77 Readers 1.Thomas Huynh
Atlanta, Georgia
February 13th, 2010
8:43 amMr. Herbert,

There is a reason why you're my favorite columnist and that is you are alway striving to make America better, either preventing us from going astray during the healthcare reform debate or today's column on clean energy. Investments in clean energy like solar panels and wind towers will not only reduce our need of foreign oil but also create new jobs, to put more American minds and muscle to work. What a shame so many are involuntarily on the sidelines as we watch other nations rush pass us by. However, the America I know hates to lose -- it's part in our culture -- and I can bet we won't be trailing for long!

Thomas Huynh
Recommend Recommended by 76 Readers 20.Afrikaneer
February 13th, 2010
8:52 amThe US has become too politicized, there are too many radio and TV political pundits spinning the political rancor in the country. Sometimes the excesses of the media can be as detrimentral as a dysfunctional Congress. China's one party system and zero political pundits may be an unsurmountable advantage.
Recommend Recommended by 70 Readers 17.David
Nevada Desert
February 13th, 2010
8:47 amAmerica has already missed the boat on creating jobs in manufacturing machines and tools for clean energy. That was President Obama's hope. China can do it just as good and cheaper.

As a German auto technician for Mercedes once said to me: " We have stripped down two Lexus in our shop. We know how they make it so good...but we don't know how they make it so cheap."

Besides medical care and prisons, what growth industries are left? Of course, in Nevada we have gold mines, geothermal energy and cows that no one can off-shore.

Recommend Recommended by 70 Readers 46.WS
Ann Arbor, MI
February 13th, 2010
9:09 amYou say "The network of world-class universities and advanced research institutions in the U.S. is by far the most impressive in the world: think Harvard and Stanford and Berkeley and M.I.T. and on and on."

For several decades the IBM and the ACM have been having an international collegiate programming contests among top universities.

Here's the results for 2010:

Harvard, Standford, and MIT are in the 14th place tie group, beaten by universities in China, Taiwan, Russia, and Poland.

The first step in overcoming a problem is admitting we have one.

Recommend Recommended by 65 Readers