Made In China, Bought in U.S.

Chinese workers building Buicks. CBS

I'm Barry Petersen, and this Letter From Asia comes from Beijing.

American politicians like to talk…loudly most of the time…about the threat from a rising China. Usually this comes down to blaming China for its success because its currency is valued too low or it pays its workers too little.

I want to reach out to Americans and say…wake up!

So it was interesting to hear a different take from James McGregor, who worked in China as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and then went into the business world here. Experiences that led to a book One Billion Customers.

What I like is that McGregor sees beyond the normal reasons for China's rise…and sees how we Americans are contributing to our own potential decline by focusing on the wrong things.

"We talk about feeding tubes," he says. "We talk about abortion. We talk about church and state. China is talking about building roads and highways and ports and new universities and working on new science and new science research centers."

The fact is, we Americans are hooked on China… it's the reason everything from t-shirts to TV sets cost less these days because China makes them for less.

But China also represents a saving grace for American companies…like General Motors. Back in the U.S. they're laying off workers and closing plants. Not here - their factory in Shanghai runs full speed, making cars considered cool and high quality. Some day, China may be GM's biggest market.

Oddly enough, the Chinese are doing so well because they have a very successful blueprint to follow…us.

"I think the threat is if we don't handle it right," McGregor says. "We've got to up our game. I mean, China is doing what we did in the 50s. They are saving money, they are working hard, they are focusing on education and putting their kids into sciences."

America's strength has always been out willingness to compete and the way we nourish innovations.

There was a comic strip character once who said: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Which is to say—how China changes America…is really up to America.

By Barry Petersen
  • Bob Bicknell

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