Cessna, as American a company as ever was, made an announcement Friday that was easy to miss. It will build its new light-sport airplane — a new category of airplanes that the U.S. hopes will restore the sagging general aviation industry — in China.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
“A sad end to the best workers in the aircraft industry in the world, who are here in Wichita, workers who built the B-29 and all WWII-related aviation items that saved the world only to have it all go to China. Sad, sad. A moment of silence for the American aviation industry,” opined one observer on the Kansas.com (Wichita Eagle) Web site.
Cessna’s main competitor, Minnesota-based Cirrus, announced last summer that its version of the plane would be built in Poland. Nobody played taps. Poland isn’t China.
The lead paint scandal, the falling dollar (which may or may not be a good thing), the loss of American manufacturing jobs — shoot, even Miss World — have many Americans in a grumpy mood toward China, even as we buy its products at a record rate.
Face it. We’re scared. We are looking back in time, and seeing the birth of the American Century — special China edition — and wondering who we are and where we fit into it.
Consider this week’s observation by James Fallows, the Atlantic Monthly writer, when he had his plane — a made-in-America Cirrus — refueled in Japan last week…
And in China last year…
Fallows says he realized that Japan is all about the way of doing things, and China is about a way of doing things.
“I am feeling positive toward both approaches. The emphasis on the right way of doing things is… surprising on each encounter with Japan. And the determination to do things in China, no matter what, commands respect, despite the obvious complications and problems it creates.”
When it comes to doing things, what is America about? Because “the determination to do things” was one of those “uniquely American” characteristics that isn’t so unique in a global economy, perhaps we’re searching for a new identity.
Let’s think about how to do that. First, consider this…
Now, are you excited by the possibilities? Or are you scared by the enormity of change? It’s not a rhetorical question.