This week on the Sinica Podcast, Jeremy and Kaiser are joined by Benjamin Shobert, who visited the Sinica South studio in Durham, North Carolina, for this episode. He is a senior manager at Healthcare NExT, a healthcare initiative of Microsoft, and leads strategy with national governments. The topic of discussion is his compelling book, Blaming China: It Might Feel Good but It Won’t Fix America’s Economy. The three discuss the taxonomy of dragon slayers and panda huggers, and some realities with which the world is now grappling: the rise of China, outcomes of globalization, the watershed moment of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the impact it has had — and will continue to have — on the bilateral relationship between the United States and China.
What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:
13:06: Ben talks about how, in 2016, traditional messaging by American politicians on the campaign trail in regard to China changed significantly: “…and to see [Mitt Romney] in the Rust Belt states talking quite vociferously about China as a near-peer threat and the source of economic anxieties…that was a signal.”
21:39: Ben explains the outsize role that the American Midwest has played in shaping the modern U.S.-China relationship: “Geographically, literally in parts of the American Midwest that matter to where this relationship goes, where there’s a realization that ‘China is not going to look like the way we thought, and I don’t know if we’re comfortable with that.’”
35:54: Ben reflects on the compatibility of views between “panda huggers” and “dragon slayers.” Is there any common ground between the two? “It’s almost as if this is a board game, and it’s not actual people making hard decisions in the context of different political systems, different cultures, different histories, and again the subtext for me in all of this is the United States during this modern global era has not been tending to its own knitting.”
37:24: “This is one of those conversations where if you get six people of both political persuasions in the same room, you’ll get more or less six people that agree: we need to invest more in infrastructure, we need to invest in healthcare and social spending, and yet, at the end of the day we didn’t do that. So we’re talking about China from this point of view of just extraordinary insecurity. Again, how much of that is because of what China has done? How much of that is because of things we haven’t?”
Jeremy: Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America, by Beth Macy, a nonfiction book that charts the opioid crisis in the United States.
Ben: Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, by Brian Alexander, a story of Lancaster, Ohio, and the upheavals globalization brought to the community
Kaiser: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age, by Stephen R. Platt, plus its (exceptional) audiobook narration by Mark Deakens.