Americans are obsessed with the threat posed by China to our interests and even to our national survival. Skilled analysts at the State Department, Pentagon, think tanks and universities are engaged in identifying the dangers posed by China and possible strategies for coping with them.
Our intense focus on dangers risks overlooking the opportunities that exist for American-Chinese relations, which I would like to address here. Let's consider an extreme case of a Grand Bargain illustrating how monumental our opportunities may be.
But of course there could be many lesser opportunities if we can't arrange a Grand Bargain.
The Grand Bargain would rest on the fact that cooperation in achieving our mutual interests could provide so many benefits all around that they would greatly outweigh the conflicting interests which now get all our attention.
Just consider the resources a grand Chinese-American bargain could release to fund additional investment in projects at home and around the world.
Between them, the two countries currently spend about a trillion dollars every year on military forces. This is more than half of the money spent by the entire world on military forces.
Aside from China, no other country poses a credible military threat to the U.S. and aside from the U.S., no country poses a credible threat to China. The two countries could not afford to disarm totally while the rest of the world remained armed.
But the Grand Bargain could pick up an annual budget of $500 billion by agreeing to cut Chinese and American military expenditures exactly in half.
Since the reduction would be mutual it would not threaten Chinese or American military security.
What could China and America do with half a trillion dollars every year? Are there any projects that are worth spending that much money on? Well, what about saving the planet, and all of its people, including Americans and Chinese, from a ruined climate?
To protect us all, we must phase out our prevailing ways of generating energy. We must massively shift to renewable energy. This will cost immense amounts of money, and an extra half trillion dollars annually could accelerate this needed shift very nicely.
This project would employ the best efforts of the world's skilled scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, many of whom live in China and the United States. The experts who would lose their jobs at the Pentagon and its Chinese equivalent could easily find new employment in this more constructive work.
Although many details would remain to be worked out on the basis of experience, there are clearly two places where large amounts of extra money would be very beneficial.
We could install tons of additional solar PV panels. We could also build large amounts of new grid to allow electricity generated by those PV panels to be conveyed where it is needed.
If anything, building additional grid, up to and including a grid connecting the entire planet into a single system, should have an even higher priority than speeding up the installation of PV panels. There is no use producing PV panels whose electrical output cannot be fully used because of an inadequate or non-existent grid.
Unless fusion power — the possibility of which is still far from certain — can be developed much sooner than even optimists now dream of, the world will move to run on solar energy sooner or later. But with the pace of climate degradation accelerating, later might not be soon enough.
There is already a great acceleration in PV and grid building. But a Grand Bargain between China and the United States could dramatically increase that acceleration and, ultimately, save the world.
This would be a result doing great honor to the people and leaders of both of our countries.
If the United States and China were to cooperate in this project, who could stop us?
Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. Read Professor Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.
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