America's greatest exports are ideas, intangible "somethings" that make our country unique. For much of the last twenty years, American politicians have paid lip service to the China problem.
One of the wonderful things about being a Super Power is our ability to re-frame any political, economic, or sociocultural issue at will. The Civil Rights era brought about greater freedoms, greater justice and improved our nation's morale. It was a reminder that yes, as a matter of fact, we do believe all are created equal and yes, we believe in self-determination and social responsibility. We recognized, crafted and then implemented a path towards a better future. Just as Lincoln did through the Emancipation Proclamation, and as our Founding Fathers did with the Declaration of Independence.
Demonstrating man's goodness is at the core of what makes America a wonderful country and concept. It is our recognition of the good in our fellow man, our responsibility to police those who do not achieve those standards, and our willingness to stand for these things on the world's stage that makes us different than any of our allies - with the possible exception of Israel.
For too long, our national discourse has been defeatist about "the rise of China."
What if the politicians are all wrong? What if the solution is the simplest answer? Let us acknowledge we are not going to beat China on the retail side. We will not enslave our population, as China does. We employ strict environmental standards, they do not. We invest in ideas, they reverse engineer them and make cheap reproductions.
A short term economic contraction, which we are already experiencing without the benefit of any visionary leader to guide us, may be necessary. But if we re-frame this debate and look at where we can beat China - on the wholesale side - we win. We innovate. We create. We imagine. We deploy.
Take Africa and Afghanistan, where China's investments assist in funding war crimes and suffering. China exploits fear and slave labor.
If American companies competed, offered living wages and safe passage, workers in Africa and the United States and Malaysia would be grateful and productive. It seems to me the Trillions of dollars of natural resource wealth around the globe would be better utilized if the 21st Century leaders could be half as visionary as those who brought us the Industrial Revolution.
Instead of ceding every mineral, gas, and oil contract to the Chinese, American interests should compete. Let's stop allowing the "conventional wisdom" drive us farther down the uncertain economic path and press for change that would save lives, improve economic forecasts, and force China back to the table.
As an aside, it's an honor to be here this week. Many thanks to everyone.