According to recently released minutes from one of Henry Kissinger’s meetings with Chinese premier Mao Zedong in 1973, Mao offered several million Chinese women to America, as China “had too many.”
It seems like an amusing anecdote in retrospect, if you don’t think too much about the possibility that Mao was apparently sincere and that slavery had only been illegal in the US for 111 years.
When you’re looking back on Mao’s offer and trying to decide whether it is funny, consider these two elements: America’s trade deficit and China’s woman deficit.
China currently has a trade surplus with the US in the neighborhood of $1.4 trillion, and that increases by about $1 billion a day. (If it makes it easier to laugh, you can say those numbers in your Dr. Evil voice.) According to The Atlantic, the Chinese government has mostly parked that deficit in American treasury notes, and the end result is the equivalent of every American borrowing $4,000 from someone in China. (I borrowed mine from a goat herder in Guangxi Province, how about you?)
We don’t seem likely to turn the trade deficit around in the near future, so if America’s in hock up to its eyeballs, what do we have left to bargain with? Women. According to China’s own Family Planning Commission the current ratio of 118 men to 100 women will result in a shortfall of 30 million women by 2020.
This leads me to two questions:
- How far in debt to China will the US be by 2020?
- What is the exchange rate of US women to Chinese yuan?
Of course, I’m a fiction writer, so I’m always contemplating the ridiculous as likely and the absurd as possible. Sadly, we’re not that far from the days when people were a commodity. When people could be held as collateral on debts. When women couldn’t vote or hold property.
I don’t know that the US will ever find itself trying to trade 10 million American women for debt relief, but if I had daughters, I might consider teaching them Chinese.
*For those who don’t recognize it, that’s from The Blues Brothers, when Jake and Elwood are at a fancy restaurant trying to convince Mr. Fabulous to get back together with the band.