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In response to yesterday's "thought experiment" of fitting 1.3 billion people -- all inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, plus all Japanese and Nigerians -- within the borders of the 50 American states, so that we could understand what China has going for it and against it, two messages. From an American living in the US:

>>As interesting a comparison as it was, the steps to imagine America as China, it was incomplete - on both sides of the ideological divide :) You need add:
   *) imagine Puerto Rico as a "break-away province" you seek to "re-integrate" despite its wishes - perhaps Cuba would serve as a more flashy example, but Puerto Rico seems as good as any.
   *) imagine a nuclear-armed, shakey-looking authoritarian state that only seems ideologically aligned called North Mexico, with a prosperous and ideologically distinct South Mexico receiving political and military support from, oh call it Spain thousands of miles across an ocean. (One wonders if we can equate drugs with slow-acting nukes, drug-lords with Generals, and arrive at the same thing already without the thought exercise)
   *) a nuclear-armed Brazil to stand-in for India
   *) a nuclear-armed, similar ideology but still adversarial Canada to stand-in for Russia.
   *) a rather larger indigenous, independence-seeking population of Native Americans to take the place of Tibet (and Mongolia?)<<

And from an American who has lived for years in China:

>>Interesting thought experiment. Imagining America straining its seams with the population of the PRC - the further distillation of wealth, the redistribution of ethnic and political majorities/minorities, the inter-regional competition for dwindling resources, the swelling ranks of a restive disenfranchised, on and on - my first thought immediately turned to the viability of the Second Amendment.
 
I imagine that the "right of the people to keep and bear Arms" would need to be
dramatically infringed. Would the USA survive an additional amendment that upset the relationship between its citizens and their guns? Would it be able to survive without a serious limitation or complete revocation of the Second Amendment? Unfortunately, this is a questionthat is not only hypothetically related to an imagined US population that mirrors the current PRC.<<
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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