Every Tuesday and Friday, Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation about something that matters, like today’s episode with Dan Wang. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.
So I think it’s hard to overstate how dramatically the narrative on China has swung in the past couple of years. You go back to 2020 and 2021 and honestly even before that, and I’ve said this before, the dominant emotion in the American political dialogue about China is envy. And that is most true among the people who are counted as most anti-China.
Take Donald Trump. He would go on and on about how China was winning, how it was beating us at everything. But this was pretty broad, and it was based on something real. Its manufacturing prowess had become stellar. It had gone from making very simple things to very complex things, things that we no longer are able to reliably make.
It was embarking on big, ambitious projects like Made in China 2025 and the Belt and Road Initiative. It had weathered the pandemic without the mass death we saw in the West. It was able to build infrastructure and housing and transit at speeds unimaginable to us now here. And what Trump said, Biden has put into practice. It isn’t just that he kept things like the Trump tariffs. It’s that if you look at the Biden administration’s economic policy, a lot of it is about rebuilding our capacity to compete with China on what it can already make, things like solar panels. And a lot more of it is about trying to make sure we stay ahead of China on the technologies where we can make them now and they cannot.