“How did we end up owing most of our country to China, anyway?” Mr. Bates was grumbling.
“You have to give the Chinese credit for the most successful crash course in capitalism ever seen in the history of the world,” Mr. Magundi said. “When it became clear to their leaders that the key to world power was economic rather than military, they set about gaining that power in a methodical and relentless fashion. Even fifteen years ago, it was possible for American politicians to talk seriously about sanctions against Chinese imports; now everyone knows that sanctions would completely destroy the American economy. The Chinese have earned the power they wanted: not the power to defeat us in battle, but the power to buy and sell us.
“At any rate, China is the future. We can denounce the authoritarian control freaks who run the place as much as we like, but our criticism is blunted a bit by the way we elect indistinguishable authoritarian control freaks, Republican or Democratic, who have pretty much exactly the same notion of what constitutes successful government. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, the more controlling governments will dictate the terms of those connections, and the developed nations will look more like China or Singapore. They’ll be prosperous and pleasant to live in, as long as you cooperate. And if you refuse to cooperate and get beaten to a pulp by the secret police, most of the people around you won’t have much sympathy, because their lives are prosperous and pleasant.”