The Wrong Way to Use the 'China Menace'

Several days ago I invited a torrent of hostile email from readers in China and elsewhere by saying that I thought the notorious "Chinese Professor" ad was actually on the OK side of the race-baiting line, in that it presented the Chinese economy as a challenge and competitor to the U.S. without suggesting that the Chinese had done anything "unfair" or wrong.

Some other time I'll quote from, and try to answer, some of the irate responses I received.

For the moment, a sample of what I think is on the other side of the line. It's this ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, against Republican former Congressman Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. As it happens, I hope that Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak beats Toomey in the race to succeed Arlen Specter in the Senate. But this ad is stupid and wrong:

The "smoking gun" quote against Toomey, his having once said "It's great that China is modernizing and growing" -- where do I start? Maybe here and here. It would be worse for the U.S. if China were stagnating and stewing. There are problems from a prospering China, sure. But the problems from a billion people unhappily moving backward would be worse.

Yes, I realize that 95% of the ads running now are stupid, wrong, misleading, and desire-to-emigrate inducing. I mention this one because it's a useful bookend to the "professor" ad mentioned earlier. (And, from what I can tell, it really is a DSSC product. It's listed on the committee's YouTube channel. Hey, what happened to these anonymous contributions we've heard so much about?)

So, good luck Sestak. But I hope this ad doesn't make the difference.

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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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