The Wrong Way to Use the 'China Menace'

By James Fallows

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:

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http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/10/the-wrong-way-to-use-the-china-menace/65306/

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/10/the-wrong-way-to-use-the-china-menace/65306/