US biggest threat is its poor education, not China

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/8 19:42:52

What is the biggest threat to the US today? Is it China? Guess again. 

In an article entitled "The states with the best and worst economies," USA Today raised a fact that might have long overlooked by Washington: "One of the most important indicators of economic health is educational attainment." And educational attainment is one of the pressing tests that the US is confronting now. 

The real competition between China and the US in the years to come is all about economic resilience - which side can better withstand the continuous pressure. Educational attainment is the most crucial factor to guarantee such resilience, since economic resilience stems from rising competitiveness and stable employment, and all that stems from education.

USA Today concluded, "While many parts of the Rust Belt have made efforts to transition to high-tech and service-oriented industries… widespread poverty and low educational attainment remain major obstacles to economic revival in these states." 

Be it the trade war or competition over comprehensive national strength between China and the US, the race is fundamentally about talent. 

China is confident in the face of pressure from the US. The faith comes from the fact that over 170 million Chinese people have received higher or vocational education. When it comes to innovative strength in the field of science and technology, reports show that China had over 4 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates in 2018 while the US had about 440,000, more than half of whom are international students. 

Confronting the challenge described by USA Today, Washington should be thinking about how to boost its educational attainment. Unfortunately, the US is more likely to be lost in a vicious circle - the more it is vigilant against China, the more it wants to contain China; the more it struggles with China, the more likely it will neglect its domestic problems, such as education; the more it ignores its own obstacles, the more it declines and thus the more it fears China. 

What is the current state of US higher education? Nothing can capture the situation better than the US documentary film, Waiting for "Superman." It focuses on several poor students who were striving to be accepted into competitive schools, which turned out to be an arduous journey because the selection of students to many charter schools is done by lottery. As The New York Times (NYT) once commented, the US education system, which is dependent on local property taxes, "provides great schools for the rich kids in the suburbs who need the least help, and broken, dangerous schools for inner-city children who desperately need a helping hand."

When the US government is immersed in increasing its military investment, containing its competitors, it tends to turn a blind eye to the truth that its biggest threat is not China, but itself. "We fail to adapt in this age of rapidly accelerating changes in technology, markets, climates, the workplace and education," The NYT's columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently. Apparently, what Friedman mentioned was not caused by China. 

The US government needs more sober observers like Friedman who can say who the country's real enemy is. Seeking various ways to contain China will hardly realize the US goal, and will definitely not make America great again.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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