Our first example is unusual - broadcast television. CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles is a new favorite in the household, with plots usually surrounding your typical crime drama with a military veneer. On occasion, the show ventures into modern geopolitics - almost always regarding the Wahhabist-Ba'athist-Khomeinist War (better known as the War on Terror).
This week, however, the emphasis was on "almost," as viewers were treated to one of the most anti-Communist TV hours since the PNTR debate of a decade ago. An investigation of a naval officer's suicide uncovers an espionage ring of whole families who agree to raise children as intelligence agents in exchange for life in America - and permission to have more than one child (the officer himself was the would-be spy; he took his own life rather than betray the United States).
Now, whether Communist Chinese intel is smart enough (perhaps) and patient enough (absolutely) to hatch a plot like that isn't the point. Here's what is: the major themes of the anti-Communist movement - the danger of CCP espionage, the plight of regime victims bullied into becoming regime agents, the horrifying "one child" fiasco - were aired across the country on a major network for all to see. If even Hollywood is prepared to accept the Communist Chinese threat, Washington can't be that far behind.
Unfortunately, so long as Washington continues to attract the Tom Friedmans of the world, it will be a maddening place in the interim. This is was the Washington Post piece by Steve Mufson and John Pomfret is so helpful - to a point. The former Post correspondents in Communist China detail the holes in the "Chinese century" theory. Among the juicier nuggets . . .
Projections of China's economic growth seem to shortchange the country's looming demographic crisis: It is going to be the first nation in the world to grow old before it gets rich. By the middle of this century the percentage of its population above age 60 will be higher than in the United States, and more than 100 million Chinese will be older than 80. China also faces serious water shortages that could hurt enterprises from wheat farms to power plants to microchip manufacturers.
And about all those engineers? In 2006, the New York Times reported that China graduates 600,000 a year compared with 70,000 in the United States. The Times report was quoted on the House floor. Just one problem: China's statisticians count car mechanics and refrigerator repairmen as "engineers."
In other words, the CCP isn't nearly as strong as so many fear.
Unfortunately, Pomfret and Mufson make an increasingly common mistake:
Some decades ago, Americans were obsessed with another emerging Asian giant: Japan . . . But then something happened. Japan's economy lost its game. The 1990s became a "lost decade," so much so that during the toughest days of the recent financial crisis, Japan was invoked as a cautionary tale, lest we not do enough to jump-start our economy.
Indeed, I remember when fear of a rising Japan seemed to consume America. There's only one problem: Japan was an American ally, a fact that always made the Nippo-phobia (assuming that's a word) overblown and ridiculous.
The CCP, by contrast, is an American enemy. This motive, lost on Mufson and Pomfret but not on the Writers' Guild, makes all the difference.
In the 1970s, European Communism was an economic basket case, too. The Soviet Union had a leader growing more and more detached from reality as his people suffered deeply. Yet the Soviets, like the CCP today, saw these weaknesses as reason to expand their power around the globe (in order to counteract the weakness), and because they came up against an unsure and self-doubting America, the decade that was supposed to spell out their doom turned into their best shot at global domination.
The Chinese Communist Party is in similar desperate straits, and may be facing a similarly distracted and despairing America. The CCP's weakness should reassure us about our position, but not reassure us on the Party's motive.
That last part is still something Washington hasn't quite figured out. That Hollywood - of all places - has is a good sign, but also a reminder of how far we still have to go until China is once again free and America is at last secure.