The wizard of Delaware
Updated: 2011-08-24 10:43
By Patrick Mattimore (chinadaily.com.cn)
It's hard to shake the image of the Wizard of Oz as smiling US Vice President Joe Biden tromps around China assuring whomever is listening that Chinese debt is safe in US hands. Or is it US debt that's safe in Chinese hands? I'm not really sure. The Wizard is making me confused.
Pay no attention to that Standard & Poors downgraded rating. Eat, drink, spend and be merry. Especially spend. Buy up those US Treasury Bonds. Keep the American dream alive.
Sure, the Vice President is no Wizard. He's from Delaware and the original guy came from Kansas but still you get the feeling that he's trying to manipulate some strings behind the curtain as he tries to keep America alive on China’s back.
We used to buy US treasury bonds too when I was a kid at school in Connecticut in the 1950s. I used to get a quarter allowance every week and I made my small investment in America. Can't for the life of me remember ever getting my cash back, but hey, that was Oz, so I'm sure I did.
The Vice President and America's new Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, went to see a friendly basketball game between China and a team from Georgetown University last Wednesday night. Very hospitable affair. But in one of those life is stranger than fiction things, the next night another contest in Beijing between Georgetown and another team from China turned decidedly unfriendly. Hope that's not some kind of metaphor for relations between our two countries after the Vice President goes home.
Maybe the Vice President is more like Harold Hill from another great American musical, "The Music Man." Hill is a salesman who tries to con a group of folks in Iowa into buying some imaginary musical instruments and band uniforms. But Hill falls in love with the town librarian and ends up being more a Pied Piper figure than villain. Hopefully, the Vice President takes the time to really smell the "tea" while he's here and similarly falls in love with some of the things that are making China a great country.
The Vice President and the US have a lot of goods they can legitimately sell China. The US still has a university system that's the envy of the world and Chinese students now represent the largest foreign contingent in US colleges.
The biotech industries and medical professions have no peers. Despite its blemishes, China could do a lot worse than copying the American legal system. So, yes, by all means, China keep supporting the US, but keep promoting yourself as well. Rent those billboards on Times Square. Keep opening Confucius Institutes. Buy American Savings Bonds. And just for the heck of it you might want to rent a couple of DVD copies of the Wizard of Oz and The Music Man. America does great musicals.
The author teaches American law courses in China through a masters program jointly sponsored by Tsinghua University and Temple University.
US Vice-President Joe Biden visits China August 17-22.
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