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Will China Make Americans Better or Worse Off?

This article was written by in Economy. 5 comments.

Due to increasing skills and knowledge worldwide as well as labor costs that are a fraction of costs in the United States, there is some fear that the competition will mean less prosperity for people of my generation and younger. The concern is the younger generation may not be able to live as “well off” as their parents.

Ben Stein tackled this thought in a recent column on Yahoo Finance, focusing on China. Ben is not as concerned.

But the main thing I want to express… is that China is getting rich because its people are getting well educated, because they are working hard, because they are saving, and because they are investing.

This sounds like a good reminder for us in the Unied States as well. Here is the path to wealth:

Young Americans who study hard, learn serious subjects, do not lose themselves in computer games, avoid doomed industries, learn good work habits, save prudently, and invest sensibly will be well off no matter what happens in China or Taiwan or India.

It might take some foresight to know the answers to some of the questions Ben’s summary evokes, for example:

* What are the serious subjects? (Am I in trouble because I studied education and not finance or economics?)

* What industries are doomed? (What if all jobs are eventually outsourced out of the United States except for upper management?)

* How do you invest sensibly? (Is it too late to invest in China? Where will the next booming economy be?)

Updated February 7, 2012 and originally published November 28, 2005. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .


avatar ~Dawn

Americans are resourceful and creative, though we haven’t been of late in some aspects. I look forward to seeing what challanges lay ahead and what we can overcome.

When desktops came out, they thought it was the end of the world, when robtics arms cames out in the car industry, they thought it was the end of the world(it was only honda/toyota)- I think we will do just fine

avatar Matt

If the number of Americans who “study hard, learn serious subjects, do not lose themselves in computer games [oh, Ben]…” keeps dropping, and sharply in comparison to the rising numbers in China, it seems straightforward to assume that America as a whole will see a decline. Although the educated and hard workers will continue to see relative success, it would follow that our successes will be lesser and our failures will be greater. It’s a classic “take care of yourself and don’t worry about your neighbor” argument, which is fine until your neighbor is starving and wants some of your food.

avatar Guest

Game Over. I don’t think it really matters much what Americans or Chinese do, it all boils down to the numbers. China has a workforce of well over the entire population of the US. The assumption that the Chinese will never become as “educated” as Americans is dangerous, short-sighted and one of the reasons the US finds itself with factories shutting down….


avatar Swan

This whole China economic growth thing is fascinating to me. Anyone interested in this must read “The World is Flat”.

I think that scenario analysis could be of help her. The comment that we could outsource all except our management jobs is definitely the DIRECTION we are going, but is that a plausible end-state? What are they managing? Perhaps technology will be to the point that they can manage international companies from the US.

By the time we get that far from now, why would the Chinese not be trying to take the upper level management jobs. Wouldn’t they be educated enough for that by then?

Sorry, I am not providing any answers. I am not an economist so it is hard for me to synthesize facts that support any one opinion. My opinion based on what I have read is that we will stagnate for the next generation. Kind of a cop out, but stagnation is actually decline relative to the world as a whole. I think that the Chinese will be both taking our jobs and providing us with more customers. However the net net is that they will take more of our higher level jobs then they will provide us with customers. That is because their more enterprising people will find the best way to utilize their talents. If the Chinese market is too efficient, they will find a way to make more from the US market.

Once we get past a generation from now, all bets are off. Anything can happen. By then the Chinese could all be as lazy as we are, they could all be addicted to drugs, who knows….


avatar Guest

Seems like every Century is dominated by a country or group of people only to be supplanted by someone bigger and better the following century.

The Spanish ruled the world not so long ago, then the British dominated and now the Americans….

There are always various reasons why empires decline but one common thread seems to be that these empires grow an arrogance abhorred by the rest of the world. The French were all too happy to help colonial America defeat the British during the revolution…

Heck, go far back as the Roman empire and you can see the tell-tale signs. A key indicator an empire is close to collapsing is when the populance spends most of its time watching gladiators and consuming as much as possible with no care in the world of where it comes from or how to pay for it or simply siezes stuff by military might. Sound familiar?

Here is a prediction I will make about China. China will, at some point over the next few years, invade Taiwan and nobody-AND I MEAN NOBODY-will lift a finger to stop China. There will be those countries that rant and rave about the invasion but none will come to the aid of Taiwan. This will be the first move of the new empire called China that will likely dominate the latter part of the 21 century.