Biden Promises the World in Chengdu, But Can He Deliver?
U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden has just left Chengdu and now he’s off to Japan and Mongolia to seek allies in the Great Encirclement. But while he was in China, Biden gave a speech at Chengdu’s Sichuan University that has been cited in the press, but a lot of what he said went unnoticed so I am reprinting some choice cuts from the speech (as well as linking to the transcript) because there were some fascinating and telling tidbits.
An Economic Reality Check
I thought the following quote was really interesting because as any American might tell you, the standard of living in the U.S. far surpasses how Chinese live, yet the U.S. is faltering while China rises. I feel a lot of this yapping is psycho-somatic, self-inflicted doldrums. And I am not sure why. Why would a country with a massive landmass, a relatively small population and the most creative and talented people around basically throw in the towel and give up?
So the quote below was kind of a wake up call:
“I also know that some of you are skeptical about America’s future prospects.
With that in view, I would like to suggest that I respectfully disagree with that view and will allay your concerns. Let me put this in perspective so you can understand why the American people are also confident about their future. America today is by far the world’s largest economy with a GDP of almost $15 trillion, about two and a half times as large as China’s, the second largest; with a per-capita GDP which is more than $47,000 – 11 times that of China’s. I’ve read that some Chinese are concerned about the safety of your investments in American assets. Please understand, no one cares more about this than we do since Americans own 87 percent of all our financial assets and 69 percent of all our treasury bonds, while China owns 1 percent of our financial assets and 8 percent of our treasury bills respectively.”America today is by far the world’s largest economy with a GDP of almost $15 trillion, about two and a half times as large as China’s, the second largest; with a per-capita GDP which is more than $47,000.
But then that was followed by the “Innovative & Green Revolution” rhetoric during Obama’s great run for the U.S. Presidency in 2008. I have seen little to prove that the government has any meat behind its words, and perhaps that is what helps drive the overall malaise: people waiting for the government to “do something”.
“In the 20th century, the wealth of nation was primarily measured by the abundance of its natural resources, the expanse of its landmass, the size of its population and the potency of its army.
But I believe in the 21st century, the true wealth of a nation will be found in the creative minds of its people and their ability to innovate – to develop the technologies that will not only spawn new products, but create and awaken entire new industries.”
Freedom & Liberty Are Good for Business
That empty claim was followed by this jab at rote learning and static systems (not the attempt at making Sichuan University feel better):
“A system that trains students not merely to learn and accept established orthodoxy, but to challenge orthodoxy, challenge their professors, challenge the ideas put forward to them, encourage individual thought and innovation; a system that not only tolerates free expression and vigorous debate, including between citizens and their government, but celebrates and promotes those exchanges; a system in which the rule of law protects private property, provides a predictable investment climate, and ensures accountability for the poor and wealthy alike; and a system with universities that remain – notwithstanding, and this is a great university - the ultimate destination for scholars from around the world.”
Wouldn’t it be great if politicians actually followed up on what they said?
“Openness, free exchange of ideas, free enterprise and liberty are among the reasons why the United States, in my view, is at this moment the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. It’s why our workers are among the most productive, why our inventors and entrepreneurs hold more patents than any other country in the world, why we are reinvesting in the fundamental sources of our strength — education, infrastructure, innovation …”
Biden On the Burden of the Elderly
The following was in response to a question from the audience: “What concrete measures will America take to reduce its deficit?”
“The bottom line is we have to deal with two elements of our economy. One is what we call entitlement programs – long-term commitments to our people in the area of particularly Medicare. That is the safety net we have for people once they reach the age of 65 to be assured that they have health care.”
Biden never mentioned the second element, which I assume was either corporate tax loopholes or a plan to divert Wall Street bonuses to the needy. Biden strove for common ground with the Chinese – in this case overpopulation and its burden:
“I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.”
Meanwhile in the United States you have Pro-Lifers angered at Joe Biden ‘not second-guessing’ China’s one-child policy.
How Much Weight Does Biden’s Speech in Chengdu Carry?
Perhaps not much, but we will see. But as Forbes said, at least Biden didn’t make a huge gaffe, right? I don’t know why, but I find myself caring a little bit more about politics again. After a long hiatus due to severe disgust, I find myself talking about Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul and repeating to myself a greasy politico’s words:
I believe in the 21st century, the true wealth of a nation will be found in the creative minds of its people and their ability to innovate.