This fall, much of the United States seemed to have settled on a narrative for the country’s struggle to adapt, after a debilitating financial crisis, to a post-industrial and post-unipolar global economy: China and its undervalued currency are largely to blame.
Proof that this was a nationally compelling storyline came during the acrimonious midterm election campaign. U.S. politics have rarely been more polarized, but complaining about China was something both parties could agree on.
John Boehner, the presumptive new Republican Speaker of the House, attacked the Democrats for “a stimulus that shipped jobs overseas to China instead of creating jobs here at home.” Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who hung on to his Senate seat and his job as Majority Leader, accused his Tea Party opponent Sharron Angle of being “a foreign worker’s best friend” for supporting corporate tax breaks that helped businesses outsource jobs to China and India.
This rare bipartisan consensus is why Americans were astonished to discover, when the Group of 20 gathered in South Korea this week, that in much of the rest of the world, it is the U.S. that is seen as the world’s rogue economic player.
That sentiment erupted with particular intensity in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s decision to pump $600 billion into the economy, a measure emerging market leaders worry will release a flood of money into their countries and which Europeans fear will bring inflation. But the rest of the world’s complaints about the U.S. run deeper than Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s resort to quantitative easing.