Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Fear of China is OverblownRoundup: Historians' Take
[Jeffrey Wasserstrom teaches at University of California, Irvine, and is the author of"China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know."]
"When the Chinese become our overlords, will they be benevolent overlords – or horrific task masters?" The Daily Show host Jon Stewart made that joke three years ago, but American anxiety over China's rise is more intense today.
The good news is that our anxieties are often misdirected – we fret more about dying in rare plane crashes than in common highway accidents. Is the current Sinophobia also overblown?
When I give talks about my new book on China, people often ask me fearful questions about everything from Beijing's large holding of US Treasury notes to its military buildup....
Should we be concerned about China? Yes, but we must distinguish between grounded and ungrounded fears. Jonathan Watts makes this point nicely in his forthcoming book,"When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind – Or Destroy It." As a child, he was terrified by an adult's bogus claim that if every person in China jumped at once, it would shake the Earth off its axis and kill us all. Today, as a parent, he still worries about the collective impact of China's 1.3 billion people – as it relates to the environmental consequences of changing Chinese consumption patterns.
In thinking about China, we all need to make the same kind of move, from childish fears to sensible adult concerns.
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