I had the joy and pleasure of doing bookstore events in China in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s one of my biggest book markets. But China is a more closed place today. I think there’s no question President Xi felt that openness — some of the corruption that came with it — was threatening the power and stability of China, the power of the Communist Party, and he decided he was willing to trade some level of economic growth and integration with the world for a greater level of control. But I don’t think that has to lead to war between our two countries or that it will, and so I think at the end of the day we are, as I said, we’re doomed to figure out a way to live with each other.
COHEN What do you think of the Biden administration’s policy toward China, this determined effort to check China, to view it as a rival, to limit certain forms of investment — semiconductors, etc. Has it been the right policy? Has it gone too far? Has it been too confrontational? I live in France, and President [Emmanuel] Macron believes it’s too confrontational, and that we risk losing China to Russia is a line you often hear in Paris.
FRIEDMAN Yeah, you know I’m in the camp, Roger, of let’s build bridges where possible and draw red lines where necessary. I have written over the last few years of columns that would fall in the category of “Could somebody tell me exactly where this is going?”
COHEN [laughing]: Well, if you don’t know, Tom, how is anyone else supposed to know?
FRIEDMAN What I would simply say is that I think some in the administration have asked that, and I think what you’ve seen in the last three months with a number of high-level trips by Biden administration economic officials — Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary; and the secretary of the Treasury [Janet Yellen] — there’s been a kind of pulling back a little bit and a desire, I think, to see if we can re-center the relationship a little better.
As I say, a lot of this was an inevitable outcome of the fact that we’ve entered a very different world economically, where trust becomes so much more important when you’re involved in, say, building a global supply chain for chips.