China tests America more broadly than the trade issues capturing the headlines. It complements the left's cultural assault on our nation's founding ideals, and the latter could restore Old World tyranny to America.
The United States was established by European migrants and Africans brought here against their will. They labored as farmers, merchants and craftsmen in small cities and rural settlements largely isolated from one another but gradually united by experiences that emerged from separated experiments in capitalism and local governance.
Americans emerged, culturally distinct from the British, not defined by a unifying ethnicity or religion, but rather from shared ideas that men seeking their fortunes in free markets and governing themselves through the ballot box are the best paths to personal and shared prosperity and security.
Americans threw off old world mercantilism and aristocracy.
America demanded a lot from ordinary people - self-reliance and self-discipline to accept the judgments of the marketplace and outcome of elections. Americans don't take to arms when the other side wins.
After the Revolution, a few million settlers living within 100 miles of the Atlantic coast scaled two mountain ranges, settled the West and built industries, cities and great universities. The country suffered a terrible war to rid itself of the scourge of slavery.
In 1876, Europeans flocked to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition to marvel at a bustling young nation's technological accomplishments - American leadership of the West had begun.
Now China confronts America, like a distant image in the memory of our childhood - its youth restored and busting at the seams - but it is nothing like we ever were until perhaps now.
The ruling Communist Party expects business leaders to serve its national agenda and the state apparatus censors what citizens may read and tracks with increasing efficiency their thoughts and movements.
Through a well-monitored internet and cameras and facial recognition in public spaces, contemporary China much resembles fascist Germany and pre-war Japan. Those had state directed industry associations and extraordinary pressures for conformity with militarism and supremacist ideologies.
If the 20th century taught us anything, we can't appease ambitious tyrants-Britain tried at Munich and nearly paid with extinction-or ignore them-the bloodshed of World War II might have been greatly lessened had we confronted Hitler and Tojo sooner.
At least Britain and America were united internally for the long dark war that followed but neither is today. With Brexit, Theresa May is terribly remindful of Nevil Chamberlain and too many Britons cannot see that short-term pain is necessary to unshackle from the smothering consequences of the arrogant and elitist-imposed European Union statism.
In America, the left has captured the hearts and minds of many millennials and college-educated women with self-serving sexism, racism and romantic notions about socialism. All personal failures are the handiwork of some devilish collusion among white males or dysfunction of capitalism, and the coercive powers of the state must be marshalled to redress injustice.
Consider, the California Fair Pay Act, which requires even the smallest enterprise to explain hiring decisions in terms of rigid implicit quotas. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's proposals to ensure corporate boards are controlled by a combination of employees and unelected representative stakeholders. And Sen. Chuck Schumer's that would prohibit corporations from distributing profits if they don't meet state-mandated goals.
As national policy those would impose socialist decision-making on virtually all employee contracts and investment decisions, and are more likely to happen than the Green New Deal if the Democrats get full control.
As for mandatory compliance with "Left Think"-that is now open sourced to the pervasive monitoring of Google GOOG, -2.11% and Facebook FB, -1.05% and the incessant demands of the media that anyone violating their "values" be denied employment.
President Donald Trump squarely stands in the path of the left's agenda, and it responds with a state-organized campaign to discredit him and his appointees through endless investigations. I am waiting for the House Judiciary Committee to subpoena the grade-school lunch accounts of Trump and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Schumer, the Women in White at the State of the Union and media like the New York Times by their actions deny legitimacy of a duly-elected president.
With all this, America is just one election away from capitulating to China.
Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1
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