In the months following 9/11, I used to crave reading Tom Friedman's sensible and calming editorials about the Arab and Muslim world. He appeared to tell the country that everything was going to be ok, and that the terrorists were not going to be raining us with bombs on a daily basis.
However, the last few years, his writings have tended to be the same screed every week: that countries like India and China are becoming more and more affluent and will soon leave the U.S. behind. This kind of "U.S. declining" argument is nothing new. Remember the 1980's about how the Japanese and the Germans were going to dominate the U.S.?
In any event, Friedman's piece in today's N.Y. Times
is more of the same drivel. This time, China's advancements in technology are threatening America's lazy and fat culture.
For the U.S. visitor, the comparisons start from the moment one departs Beijing’s South Station, a giant space-age building, and boards the bullet train to Tianjin. It takes just 25 minutes to make the 75-mile trip. In Tianjin, one arrives at another ultramodern train station — where, unlike New York City’s Pennsylvania Station, all the escalators actually work. From there, you drive to the Tianjin Meijiang Convention Center, a building so gigantic and well appointed that if it were in Washington, D.C., it would be a tourist site. Your hosts inform you: “It was built in nine months.”
As a world-famous journalist, does Friedman not understand the concept of a Potemkin Village? While the Chinese bullet train may be a remarkable technological achievement, does the average Chinese citizen ever even see it, let alone use it? Friedman conveniently ignores the fact that China is filled with human rights violations and the vast majority of its population lives in abject poverty, and never will benefit from the new technology. Also Friedman seems to have selective amnesia about deficient construction standards in China seen when schools collapse during minor earthquakes... multiple deadly mine collapses... Remember the 60-mile traffic jam???
While Friedman acknowledges China's authoritarian government, he quickly has no problem in admitting his "overidealization" of China... Of course, Friedman is not the first "useful idiot" at the N.Y. Times. In the 1930's, Walter Duranty, won a Pulitzer Prize for his positive reporting of Stalin's USSR regime. Over the years, even the N.Y. Times has admitted that Duranty was a fraud who failed to accurately report on Stalin's purges and the mass starvation experienced by the Soviets. While comparing Friedman to Duranty is a bit harsh, his reporting has eerily similar themes, especially the praise for totalitarian regimes which try to stamp out individual liberty.
Also, like any good self-loathing American liberal, he never met a "benevolent" dictator he didn't like.