The Coming Collision With China

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

9 million more cars hit China's roads every year.

hide caption9 million more cars hit China's roads every year.

Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

Anytime Ted Koppel decides to take on a project, you can bet it will be good. Tonight on the Discovery Channel, you can see the first of a four-part series on China, the "People's Republic of Capitalism." A major storyline in the series is China's fascination with, and growing embrace of, cars. With more people than any other country on Earth, the implications of hundreds of millions of Chinese turning in their bicycles for BMWs are huge... environmentally, economically, even politically. As we have on Wednesdays past, we are broadcasting from the Newseum here in Washington today. But, there's something different about this show: Ted Koppel is filling in while Neal's on vacation. Ted (can I call him Ted? Maybe Mr. Koppel?) spent months filming and traveling in China for his latest report, and will now talk about the coming collision between the United States and China. Is there anything we can do to stop it? What do you plan to do to prepare?



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Americans don't have "a love affair with cars." We live in suburbs and exurbs. We drive to work, to buy groceries, to bring our kids to school. Not a very sexy affair. The government and media have been trying to blame us and our car driving for high gas prices. Blame the oil companies, blame the White House, blame Congress, blame the car makers who continued making SUVs when it was clear ten years ago told that disaster lay ahead, but lay off my neighbors and me. It's not our fault.

Sent by Mike | 2:07 PM | 7-9-2008

Ted - Huge fan - I have been watching you since Iran Hostage Crisis.

That said - not only is oil used for cars, but what happens to China's manufacturing as everything is made in China.

China is drilling off the Florida Coast in the Atlantic, but the US is not.

Sent by JIm Eiden | 2:12 PM | 7-9-2008

so now China is being positioned as the next bad thing to be scared of after the Soviets & the Radical Jihadis, this is how the Military Media complex works by inciting hate & fear in general public for a potential enemy, China may be all that but to demonize & stoke fears of some kind of clash between US & China is not the way to go

Sent by syed rizvi | 2:15 PM | 7-9-2008

Good Morning -- In 1969, the year (cold war in place) I graduated from college, I had a Geography teacher that said "The time will come when Soviet Union and the United States will join forces to restrain and confront China." Do you see this happening in the future? When ? What would be the initiative that would bring this about?

Sent by Uncle Willy | 2:25 PM | 7-9-2008

Perhaps Mr Koppel could bring up in discussion the growth of the Chinese military, in particular their large scale construction of a blue water navy. A blue water navy would enable the Chinese to project military power world-wide and more specifically to the Persian Gulf.

Sent by Robert | 2:30 PM | 7-9-2008

Fossil fuels are going to be a thing of the past as soon as we get the sciences, manufacturing, and the money behind advanced energy platforms. Bio-Fuel made via algae (including clean burning diesel, jet fuel etc) for the temporary and zero point further on. Dr. Greer, founder of the disclosure project along with Advanced
Energy Research Organization has been working for a long time to develop and implement these new systems.

As i was typing this I heard a call relating to the Oil industries. They have been buying out alternate energy technology for years to simply put them on the back burners as they make record breaking profits on the only energy resource we as the masses have been aware of. as soon as they can implement these technologies to continue their sales and keep them in power they will.

Sent by Alex | 2:32 PM | 7-9-2008

Minn Public Radio just did a story on oil right here in the continental US...
And more of our current oil is from Canada than it is from the middle east so why are we all concerned with how much oil China buys from Iraq??
Thanks for putting the whole issue in perspective, and particularly for putting the conspiracy theorist(s) in their proper place.
Love the show.

Sent by Meg in St. Louis | 2:34 PM | 7-9-2008

I am concerned for energy demands around the globe. But I find it annoying that now that US and other western nations made themselves rich, and now it's china and India's turn to have a chance at the same, US is up in arms about China and India's energy demands and how that might affect US demands for energy or steel etc. After a century of US using cheap energy to get rich, with no regard for the environment, all of a sudden every one is concerned about the impact of developing nations' hurting the environment etc. I am all for greener planet but I can't help but see hypocrisy about this whole debate at times.

Sent by RK | 2:36 PM | 7-9-2008


While American automakers (and other industries) are building cars (and other products) in China, presumably at a profit, can one extrapolate that the future in America will feature an ever widening economic gap between the rich and everyone else?

Sent by Andrew Fecskes | 2:39 PM | 7-9-2008

Please stop calling a China Communist country. They might have been at one point now they are anything but.

Nowadays China could basically be defined as a Authoritarian capitalist state.

Sent by Peter | 2:46 PM | 7-9-2008

What was not touched on was how open the market is in China as compared to a fully open USA; trade barriers; copyright infringements; child labor; workers rights (conditions on the job); etc.

That gives them an unfair advantage; add in pollution / climate change issues and how is it a level playing field?

Sent by jm fay | 2:49 PM | 7-9-2008

The guest on "The Coming Collision With China" was very knowledgeable about China, but did I actually hear him say that he knew of no city in the USA building new subway (or light rail) lines? Is he kidding?? Can he be that misinformed? Please tell me that's not what I heard...

Sent by Michelle | 2:49 PM | 7-9-2008

OMG ! ! How Dare They!

Do You mean to say:
The world's oldest (est. ~4000B.C.), most populated (1 Billion+) nation, has the NERVE to compete with us (USA) for energy, food, resources AND pollution?

We should stop buying from China.
Anything made, assembled, painted, packaged, transported by, these arrogant Chinese neo-rich!

(Because they got rich, selling us -USA- stuff from India)

Sent by Harold | 3:15 PM | 7-9-2008

I was in Hangzhou, China, a popular tourist city not far from Shanghai last month, not not are they building a massive subway system, they are also providing bicycles for touist to rent to cut down vehicle emission, and the first couple hours were free! Also to my suprise, all of the scooters running in the city's street of 100% powered by electricity. All these tell me that the Chinese people are much more environmentally concsious than those of us driving huge SUVs!

Sent by Jame | 3:32 PM | 7-9-2008

Without having visited China, one cannot make the sensationalist claim of their coming economic dominance over the world. With all of the issues the country faces, a prediction that "China's economy will surpass our own in 20 years" is completely moot. One cannot make predictions of a country as unstable as China.

Also, GDP statistics released by the government constantly show "8% growth" because that is what the government planned. Realistic approximations of the GDP show the country is in a recession or worse. The subjectivity of the economic data must be considered before touting unimpeded growth.

Sent by Ryan | 3:38 PM | 7-9-2008

THe answer my friends is in our own hands. Stop buying Made in China. That is what goves them the resources to consume more and drive up prices. WE are spending a lot more at the Gas Station & Super Markets because of China's apetite than we save at Wal Mart buying trash Made in China

Sent by Dr Dev Gupta | 4:02 PM | 7-9-2008

During the lifetime of today's students, China economy could grow to be more than twice the size of the US economy, and they could have a modernized military to match. China is our next generations main opportunity, threat and challenge. Not just cars, energy and pollution, but all the big global issues involve China. Think "maintaining stability among great powers, sustaining global economic growth, stemming dangerous weapons proliferation, countering terrorism, and confronting new transnational threats of infectious disease, environmental degradation, international crime, and failing states." China is key to the future.
One response we should have in the US is to teach more of our students Mandarin and send them to study in China. Less than one percent of the public school students in my home state of Oregon study Mandarin. Very, very few students study abroad in China. Yet, we could send a high school student from my state to study for an academic year in China (transportation, room and board, and tuition) for about the same cost as we now spend per pupil on tuition in our local school districts. We could have more Mandarin immersion programs that begin in kindergarten. With vision and a bit of political will, we could change our educational system to meet the needs of our students' futures. We could engage China through our educational system. WE could give them a chance to make a different world.

Sent by Dave Porter | 6:32 PM | 7-9-2008

Please, dominance from a country that sells open ended pants so parents children can squat on the sidewalk to take a leak?

I lived there. It's a DIRTY place by ALL accounts. Just look around, white tiled buildings with sooty runoff down their sides from dust and pollution in the rain. Driving around in cars that are 20 years old, needing to buy bottled water because their rivers and lakes are severly polluted (don't buy fish from China). I was sick the whole time I was there, and didn't get better until a YEAR after I had left.

Chinese can no more afford a car (let alone a BMW) than they can a decent house. The biggest company that's the most successful in China is VW/Audi, and the government being the one whom purchases most of these vehicles for the PSB and police departments. Where are they going to put all these vehicles? There's no place to park them on the narrow streets or apartment centers. They have to build underground garages for them blocks away. I was surprised how much soot came out of a moped tailpipe that was 1 inch in diameter.

From what I heard recently too, China has increased the cost of fuel to try and slow down the demand. Their country is entirely in need of modern transportation updating. Specifically rail. They have a taste of it with the German engineered maglev that runs in Shanghai to/from the airport.

Sent by John | 9:21 PM | 7-9-2008

I forgot to mention, listening to the rest of the story. There already IS a high mpg car, it's called the GERMAN built VW 1L diesel, that gets 230 MPG. And the US didn't get to the moon on its own, it was GERMAN rocket scientists that were subjugated to NASA after WW2 that got the US there.

If you want fuel efficency, hydrogen fueled vehicles, you only have to look to the country that makes its living from automobiles and superior transportation, GERMANY. Don't look to the US.

I'm pretty fed up with people not realizing these FACTS.

Sent by John | 9:51 PM | 7-9-2008

After reading through the comments on yesterday's program, I was particularly struck by the comment, "it's not our fault" as it related to the cost of oil and the suburban sprawl in our country; with the pronoun, our referring to the suburbanites themselves. This points out clearly what the main obstacle to solving any problem in our society is; it is always easier to blame others than to actually change our own behaviors or adjust our values.

Sent by Lewis Mazanti | 10:08 AM | 7-10-2008

I am an civil engineer in Central China's Hubei province,and I have been listening to NPR through Internet for two years.What most fascinates me,I have to confess,is the ads-free purity of your programs and the seriousness and spirituality of the discussion,which is in sharp contrast with radio programs here in China.

I don't think there is a coming collision between the United States and China,instead there will be a fusion of the two great countries.Some might argue that there will never be any possibility of that,as long as so many differences have been existing for decades or even centuries.In my perspective,We will find more in common as China becomes more open and American people know more about Chinese.

China is changing rather rapidly,regarding the United States as our role model.Behind the economic growth is the fascination with,and growing embrace of,America.Almost everything American is popular with Chinese peole now,from music to movies,from fast food to cars,from NBA to democracy.Just look at how many people are learning English in this country,even kids at an early age are forced to study ABC.Whoever can speak good English is respected and admired here.Rich people rush to send their children to study in America,and the most talented young students are always applying for admission to American universities after graduation.Most importantly,the American fundamental values are penetrating through the country.Life,liberty,and the pursuit of happiness,are now reinforcing themselves in people's minds.In the long run democracy will take the place of the one party monopoly,but political reform takes time.Unless the vast majority of the 1.3 billion people in China are well-educated and know the true meaning of citizenship,any sudden democratizing jump may be a disaster.I definitely prefer American political system to Chinese political system.However,the highest priority of China right now is stability and economic growth.

Young people in China are much more influenced by American culture than Chinese culture,especially the ones born in the 1980s or later.I recognize Martin Luther King as a real great hero,and Lincoln a real great leader.I am rocked by Bob Dylan as well as kurt Cobain.I am deeply touched by Al Gore's movie 'An Inconvenient Truth'.I am inspired and motivated by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's powerful speeches.I firmly believe America is a country with a great deal of fascinating things,and if China is to become a great nation,we have to learn from Americans their liberty,equality,fraternity,legal system,sense of responsibility.

Anyway,maybe we should first learn how to share this tiny planet in an age when the world has been flattened.

Sent by Jason | 11:28 AM | 7-10-2008

American way of life around the world needs 7.5 earths to support and we have been promoting it around the world. We are losing the only earth we shared fast. The result of the Freedom, we are scared someone else has it? No one knows how to stop it. US auto makers only made profit in China, we should know every car needs gas to run, not mention all the things China made and we wasted which needs oil to make. Still we - American used most gas and everything else in the world. Just look around see how much we have been taking from the earth and others for the last few hundred years. Can we actually stop buying by credit made in China? We have not even pay for it yet and I do not see how we can ever pay back to China. Oh, I forgot that we could start another war as British did to China 100 years ago. Not just take over Hong Kong, take over the China all together to met our needs.

Sent by Mary | 2:52 PM | 7-10-2008

It is no wonder that the government of China is "permitting" the purchasing of cars... they are getting ready to drill for oil off the coast of Cuba... just about 50 miles from our shores... yet we... yes, the American entrepreneurs that would like to create a few American jobs and keep some of the billions of dollars in oil in the good old USA, are not permitted to engage in off shore drilling. Go figure. Lets not blame anyone, China included because they want to engage in capitalism and have a piece of the good life, we do it every day and in every way... except when it comes to oil production and refinery... thanks to the "tree hugger" that have yet to prove that off shore drilling hurts anyone.

Sent by Yvette... a fact based observer | 5:50 PM | 7-12-2008

Robust investment in walking & bicycle paths, electric & high speed rail, and efficiency. As identified by the Rocky Mountain Institute & the US Dept of Defense in "Winning the Oil Endgame," efficiency and conservation with sustainable and renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal) is the most cost effective key.

Sent by Scott Kruse | 3:57 PM | 7-14-2008

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