Not so smart

America Second: How America’s Elites Are Making China Stronger|
By Isaac Stone Fish
Scribe, $33, 288 pages

America Second is a book that shows how experts can make terrible misjudgments. Fish, a journalist and consultant with long experience of China, tracks through how people who should know better have thoroughly mis-read China over several decades.

He has a particular ire for Henry Kissinger, who has made a lot of money out of advising clients to ‘build trust’ with the Chinese leaders. He also has a position on the advisory board of the state-owned China Development Bank. There is a long list of high-profile diplomats and dignitaries, such as Madeleine Albright, who argue that the US should not treat China as a geopolitical competitor, regardless of its actions.

Some appear to genuinely believe that engagement will gradually guide China down a more liberal road. The larger the economic stake for China in the global economy, they say, the less likely it is to resort to force. It is an interesting theory, and it is a shame that it does not fit the facts of the past two decades.

There are other apologists, notably Disney chairman Bob Iger, who are simply interested in the money associated with China’s huge market. They argue that trying to isolate China is both impossible and will undercut the strength of the US economy. Personal interests coincide with national interest. Convenient.

This is enlightening and somewhat scary. Think of the book as further proof, if any was needed, that the best and brightest are never as smart as they think they are.

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