'Yellow Peril' Lives on in US Campaign Ads

Should America really fear China?

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) wants Americans to know that if they don't shape up, they'll be working for the Chinese within 20 years. 

They've recently launched campaign ad, set in Beijing in 2030, in which a Chinese professor explains to a lecture hall of students that all great civilizations failed because they turned their back on their principles. In America's case, the professor says that the government's stimulus increased the national debt to the point where now "Americans work for us [the Chinese]." 

Watch the ad here:


Forgoing for now analysis of whether the economic claims in the ad are true, I think it's important to consider how this argument plays into what has been a popular trope for political fear mongers: If we don't watch out, America will be part of Red China soon. 

We saw this five years ago when China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) annouced a bid to acquire the California based Unocal Corporation. Soon after the announcement, charges of Chinese encroachment on American interests reached a fever pitch and the deal had to be scrapped. 

This month, some of the same national security arguments have been resurrected in opposition of the much smaller proposed deal for CNOOC to acquire minority stake in Chesapeake Energy.

Take for example the analysis of Peter Navarro of The Street:  

"[I]n and of itself, this deal may seem fairly innocuous. However, it also represents a "camel's nose under the tent" probe by the Chinese government for bigger and bolder acquisitions that may not be in the strategic interests of the United States."

Even Andrew Peaple of The Wall Street Journal, who generally supports the deal, starts off with this rather provocative lead:

"The Chinese are coming, but this time they shouldn't scare the horses."

It may be tempting to scapegoat China, which seems to be prospering even as the American economy has stumbled, but we must be careful with the rhetoric. No one actually believes the Chinese will own America in 20 years, and it's a little far-fetched to assume that's even their goal.

Ads like this cravenly exploit people's ignorance and fear. We do not need to revive last century's "Yellow Peril."

Feel free to share your thoughts below.