Thoughts Before China’s Moon Festival Tonight


panda mooncake.jpg
A giant panda eats a special-made mooncake in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province on Sept. 21, 2010, one day ahead of China’s Mid-autumn festival this year. (courtesy of Xinhua; photo credit: Liu Dawei)
While the Mandarins of Washington and Beijing square off over the yuan-dollar exchange rate, China’s trade in mooncake vouchers is at its peak today.
Walking around Beijing this week, I have seen evidence that there are indeed mooncakes for sale and gifting everywhere. I’ve received several bags of mooncakes myself. But as I wrote a short time ago, the currency — the vouchers — that one can gift these sugar, butter, bean paste, jelly, and flour treats with seem to far exceed the real number of mooncakes that one would think underlie their value.
Mooncake vouchers may eventually replace the dollar as the global reserve currency. You heard it here first. 🙂
On a more serious front, I have been spending a lot of time in China over the last three months — back and forth between China and a lot of places in the world. I have had my eyes opened about China in surprising ways and am incredibly impressed with the vision that China has for itself and its determination to get there.
There are problems in China — and concerns about the behavior of a rising state, sort of the Google of Nations today, disrupting some of the polite, more Western norms of the global system.
China expects tough negotiations ahead — and the rest of the world, particularly the United States, should be prepared for serious arm-wrestling matches with what today is really an adolescent great power with a few thousand years of history in its DNA. America, which is a young country, nonetheless is behaving too much like an octogenerian nation and has to reinvent itself.
I think James Fallows, who just spent three years here, and I are in agreement that America won’t get far using China as an excuse for its current malaise — even though the massive infusion of direct investment from the US into China that has displaced a significant part of the American manufacturing base is a “manifestation of economic lunkheadedness” in the US political and business communities.
America has to take responsibility for its own policy decisions and needs to do the things that rebuild its capacities to innovate, to make things, and to bolster its middle class working families. China is not to blame for maximizing its interests. The U.S. government writ large, in contrast, is guilty of dereliction of duty in how it has managed America’s economic portfolio and allowed the financial sector to skim off the work and productivity of the other stakeholders in the economy.
With that thought — it’s a magnificent day weather-wise in Beijing today, the best I’ve seen yet — and it should be great for thinking big thoughts and looking at the moon tonight.
Mooncake anyone?
— Steve Clemons


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