COLUMN/ THE HOT POTATO
February 8, 2023: There’s an old saying whose origin is contested. It is often inconclusively credited to Abraham Lincoln. It goes like this: you can fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
On a busy Wednesday, the governments in charge of servicing the two biggest autocratic empires of our times, China and America, emphatically proved the adage wrong.
With the release of the latest data of the two hegemonic countries’ bilateral trade on Wednesday, it emerges that they can actually fool all the people all the time.
How? Well, international politics is the only field under the sun in which you can fight a nuclear war with your opponent under the portico and exchange a big wet kiss in the backyard that same evening – and yet, nobody will notice the double standards. That’s precisely what Beijing and Washington, DC are pulling off, right before our eyes.
On Wednesday, thanks to the latest trade data dished out to us by the US, the world was stunned to learn that America’s bilateral trade with China skyrocketed to an all-time high during 2022. The world was stunned because these two countries have literally been at war – or so it seems.
On one hand, there’s a intense Cold War raging between the two geopolitical giants over the past few years. Hong Kong, Taiwan, tariffs, South China Sea, Russia ties, silicon chips, North Korea, Wuhan biolab, 5G, and now surveillance balloons – there’s hardly any field left in which the two governments have yet to come to blows.
But when it comes to bilateral trade, it’s the opposite story. For all the fiery talk from motormouth American presidents in recent years, the two empires are passionately locked in an eternal embrace, dancing merrily under the sparkling chandelier of global geopolitics.
Official data shows that imports and exports between the two nations were an eye-popping $690.6 billion in 2022. According to the latest figures, US imports from China shot up to a gigantic $536.8 billion in 2022, which was made possible by American buyers who’re happy to purchase Chinese goods, especially tonnes and tonnes of smartphones, other electronic gadgets, and toys. During the same year, China imported goods from the US worth $153.8 billion, thanks to many Chinese shoppers’ love for buying anything and everything American.
Here’s a simple question. If these two hawks are indeed at war with each other, how on earth are they helping each other’s exports boom – right at the time of their greatest enmity?
Are the two governments out of sync with the current equations running the world of big business? Are powerful business families and giant corporations from China and America defying geopolitical tensions and sealing backdoor deals they shouldn’t be sealing?
Are diplomacy and business completely detached from each other, but which the public aren’t supposed to figure out due to some hidden agenda? If so, what’s the hidden agenda and who does it serve?
Or is it something that’s far more complex than what we’re allowed to see? Are there multiple Americas and multiple Chinas, where businesses sleep tight together, while diplomats and military bosses take the attention away with hollow talk of rivalry?
Whatever the truth is, there’s a gaping hole in this big, fat story of US-China bittersweet relations. Take a pause and think back about what the mainstream media has been spoon-feeding you for the past few days, keeping you engaged, engrossed, and entertained.
A clumsy Chinese surveillance balloon gets caught out like a sitting duck (a flying one, actually) as Pentagon spots it stupidly sailing over Montana, a state that otherwise never makes it to the headlines. The US valiantly shoots down the silly little balloon, and the poker-faced US secretary of state’s lavish trip to China gets jacked.
Seeing this geopolitical soap opera bursting out of television sets, people around the world wonder – this is it, the line has been crossed, the Cold War will now break out into a military fight.
Just as this drama balloons to a climax, the two friendly foes reveal that they are driving up each other’s exports at a pace never seen before.
Who are they trying to fool, really? What’s the missing piece of the puzzle?
On second thoughts, are we actually staring at ‘Chimerica’ – which it now appears is no longer an imagined concept. The term Chimerica is a portmanteau that US-based historian Niall Ferguson and German economist Moritz Schularick created to define China and America’s shape-changing relationship.
Now, here’s the thing about the origin of the word Chimerica, which sounds quite like Chimera. Greek mythology teaches us that Chimera was a hybrid monster that breathed fire. The creature’s shape comprised various animal parts. While Chimera resembled a lion’s body, it had a goat’s head popping up from its back, and its tail had an ominous-looking snake’s head at the end.
Tongue in cheek, add the proverbial Chinese dragon to this deceptive monster’s portfolio, and Chimera becomes Chimerica – a hybrid beast we’re currently unable to make sense of!
A hybrid beast that’s fooling all the people, all the time.
All rights to this content are reserved. If you want to republish this content in any form, in part or in full, please contact us at email@example.com.