Beinstein column: Are the Chinese the new version of a Jewish scapegoat?
At the turn of the 20th century, many people, understandably so, felt disoriented as we morphed from an agricultural society to an industrial one. And the instinct of many was to blame this dislocation on the Jews. Never mind that the majority of Jews were often poor, voiceless immigrants, usually unable to speak English, and so society directed its anger at them.
Fast forward to the 21st century as we fully move from an industrial period to a technological one, the new anger seems to be at China. They cheat. They steal. They don’t play by the rules. They seem to be responsible for all of our ills.
The People’s Republic of China does many terrible things, mostly to its own people, however. And yet the cries of America don’t seem to be aimed at weeping for those who don’t share in the same freedoms we do. Rather, it’s for a government that does many of the same things we have done.
It’s been roughly 40 years since China opened up its economy, and of course they put up tariffs to protect their infant industries — we did that for the first 120 years of our nation. Of course they try to steal our technology. We tried to ape lots of what the English did at the beginning of our nation — just read Alexander Hamilton.
And of course they subsidize their industry to boost exports; read Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures if you think that’s never been tried in America.
In short, China is often using the same playbook we used to get ourselves going.
So instead of blaming an entire country for our problems, how about we blame ourselves. Have we made sufficient investments in education and infrastructure to help us grow? Absolutely not.
With the banks getting whatever they seem to want in Washington these days, does it feel like we the people have a say anymore? Absolutely not.
With our politicians obviously so crooked and dishonest, do we even still shine light on the concept of representative democracy? Absolutely not.
It’s easy to blame others for our own incompetence. That’s why it was so seductive to blame Jews 100 years ago. And this happened all the way at the top — Harvard put strict quotas on Jews, just as they now seem to be doing with Chinese applicants. But if so many of the Chinese are the hardest working and most diligent, why shouldn’t they have most of the slots?
China isn’t replacing America as a superpower anytime soon, if probably ever. Its government is so insecure it still prohibits many books from being circulated, requires every house of worship to be registered with it, and often imprisons political dissidents. Rather, it is our duty to help them realize their own potential as a brilliant, free and industrious society.
In fact, that’s why we’ve shed so much blood in Asia over the last hundred years, to keep alive the hope of a free Asia, in particular a free China with its society by far being the most populous in all of East Asia. That’s been the dream of all our great 20th century leaders — from Roosevelt to Truman, from Eisenhower to Nixon.
FDR set in motion Pearl Harbor because he put sanctions on Japan for violating the territorial sovereignty of China. Truman fought in Korea to prevent communism from soiling Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the rest of Asia. And it was Nixon’s brilliance to leverage the Vietnam War into Mao opening up his country to the free world. We owe it to ourselves, and history, to truly care about China for its own sake.
Let’s, instead, then, honor the legacy of those presidents in a way that carries bravely that flag of freedom, and not a swastika.
Alex Beinstein writes from Carbondale and grew up in Aspen. He was a Republican primary congressional candidate in 2016. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.
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