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When China Went Shopping | The Nation

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When China Went Shopping

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There has never been anything like it--not in business, at least. The Chinese work their tails off earning billions of dollars and then, instead of spending their profits, Mao Zedong's grandchildren lend us Americans back the dollars we've paid them so that we can buy yet more stuff from the commie-capitalists. We buy their baby booties and television sets, and they take the money and lend it back to us. It's like getting the contents of your local Super Wal-Mart for free, but in Washington this strange circularity has been the cause of nonstop bitching and moaning for years.

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Nicholas von Hoffman
Nicholas von Hoffman, a veteran newspaper, radio and TV reporter and columnist, is the author, most recently, of...

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Finally, after all the complaints, the Mandarin-Marxist-free-marketeers decided to open their wallets and buy something. They picked out an oil company for themselves. One of their oil companies, CNOOC, offered to plunk down $18.5 billion, or a lot more than Americans were offering, for Unocal. On hearing the news, stockholders broke out jeroboams of Cristal.

Washington did not gloat that commie pinkos might have been hornswoggled into paying too high a price for Unocal. The sound of gnashing teeth and thumping breasts reverberated through the nation's capital. Warnings against a nightmarish color combination of red economics and yellow peril filled the air. Irresistible pressure was put on Unocal's board not to sell out to Sino-collectivism or communists in capitalist clothing.

We have been there before.

In the 1970s the air was heavy with "woe is us" when the Arabs, flush from a big jump in oil prices, were thought to be about to buy California and ship it to Saudi Arabia. Instead, those Arab guys trimmed their beards, threw off their djellabas and hit on our women.

In the 1980s it was the Japanese who were giving editorial writers hissy fits. Even though they wore suits and were good at math, they scared the hell out of the policy-wonk community when it was learned that they were using the profits gained from selling us superior automobiles to snap up Pebble Beach Golf Course and Rockefeller Center. In the end, they lost their kimonos on both deals.

The Unocal board of directors caved to the political clamor. The company is being sold to the lowest bidder. Elsewhere Canadians, who prefer profit to principle, quickly made themselves a heck of a lot of it by selling PetroKazakhstan, an oil company in the country of more or less the same name, to another Chinese outfit. Unocal stockholders looked on as they suffered a billion-dollar cash loss and they still have to pay for the Cristal.

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