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US ads paint China as enemy

It's 2030 in Beijing. A professor addresses a class of students. “Why do great nations fail?” he asks. “The Ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the United States of America.” In Exclusive partnership with The Washington Post

world Updated: Oct 30, 2010 00:26 IST
John Pomfret

It's 2030 in Beijing. A professor addresses a class of students. “Why do great nations fail?” he asks. “The Ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and the United States of America.”

“They all make the same mistakes, turning their back on the principles that made them great,” he says. “America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession. . . . Of course, we owned most of their debt,” he says with a chuckle, then turns more serious. “So now they work for us.” The class erupts in self-satisfied snickers.

Released last week, “the Chinese professor” is the latest and most inflammatory of a series of China-related advertisements appearing across US. Feeding off the nationwide anxiety about high unemployment and deep worries about America's place in the world, the ad is part of a wave of campaign publicity that casts China as benefiting from America's slide.

More than a spasm of political season piling-on, the ads underscore a broader shift in American society toward a more fearful view of China. Inspired by China's rise and a perceived fall in the standing of the United States, the ads have historical parallels to the American reaction to Japan in the 1980s and to the Soviet threat.

In a poll result Americans still showed a generally favourable view of China — by 49% to 36% — than those who don't. But 47% of respondents view China's growing economy as a bad thing and 79% see its modernizing military as threat.

While the China scare-mongering has parallels with the backlash against Japan that occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, the difference is that Japan was — and remains — an American ally.

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