This is a great ad. Anyone with an interest in Asian security should see it. Not only is it a great inside joke if you are in this area, it also does a great job capturing the American public’s angst about China’s rise. And quite honestly, it’s basically correct. We are spending our way into oblivion, and the Chinese are (deservedly) laughing as we fall into the abyss of our own making. We are doing this to ourselves – and Chinese elites are studying past hegemonies – so the scenario presented in the ad is, in fact, credible. Plus, it’s nice to see a professor presented in the US media who actually looks serious and authoritative instead of the usual Fox Network tropes that we’re pointy-headed, irrelevant Marxists who have affairs with our students. Now if only that professor image could include Americans…
There is some grumbling that the ad is racist. A friend in the field suggested it replaces the bogus Japanese threat 20 years ago with a Chinese one today. But I don’t really see that myself. The concern of the ad is not the ‘yellow-peril,’ but American foolishness, and the Chinese are presented rather well actually. The students look serious, civil, and healthy, while the prof behaves and talks like he actually knows wth he is talking about. Contrast that with typically condescending or idiotic portraits of academics in the US media – think about the ridiculous professor sequence from last year’s Transformers 2, e.g. At least this guy actually moves and speaks the way we really do in class. Ok, well, maybe he is a little more like Heinrich von Treitschke than most of us are, but still, he looks like a pretty good lecturer. Think of him as the Chinese Leo Strauss or something. LOL. I imagine that his class would be pretty fun to take. Fallows’ treatment of the ad is worth a look too.
More seriously, the ad is right on target actually in its basic claim. American errors and profligacy are the makers’ real targets; it is not ‘Asia-baiting,’ although it may feel that way initially. If it gets Americans to think more seriously about the looming debt crisis and the seriousness of the Chinese challenge, so much the better. Certainly the Tea Party, for all its sturm and drang, has neither the guts nor focus to say anything meaningful about the US response to Asia – another one of its many failures of seriousness. Nor does anyone in official Washington really know how to rein the $1.3 T budget deficit – funded, incidentally, by massive borrowing from China – without huge tax increases and spending cuts. (Quick note: It’s mathematically impossible!, which is why no one has any idea.) So if we must scare Americans into budgetary seriousness by noting that China is breathing down our neck (which they are starting to), then so much the better.
Finally, it is worth noting that China is a much more serious long-term threat than Japan ever was. China is 10 times larger in population (and 4 times larger than the US), and it is not democratic. So while I wouldn’t want yellow-baiting, ads like this that prick America’s unipolar daydream are useful actually.