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The week has barely started and already the Mainstream Media have delivered some genuinely bizarre – indeed seemingly clueless – China-related moments.

There’s the big New York Times series titled “China Rules.” It usefully describes how the People’s Republic has completely confounded the bipartisan American political and policy establishment’s confidence that its growing integration into the global economy would turn it into more cooperative, more economically and politically open power. And thankfully, the series does point out this mistaken official U.S. optimism – which it notes spanned fully eight presidencies. But it says nothing about the massive amounts of money spent by offshoring multinational corporations in Washington, D.C. and the rest of the country’s political and policy communities (encompassing academia and think tanks alike) to foster China myth-making and spoon-feed it to the national media, which overwhelmingly swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

Given that this self-interested myth-making bears so much blame for China’s emergence as a major threat to America’s national security and prosperity, it’s imperative that The Times (and the rest of the Mainstream Media) start telling this story in detail – both to reveal how active and influential the myth-makers remain, and to reduce the odds that they’ll stage a comeback down the road.

The Times itself just provided one clear example of such influence in a tweet this morning about a piece on the just-concluded summit of Asia Pacific countries in Papua New Guinea – which tells readers that “The Chinese delegation sought to reaffirm its opposition to the protectionism and unilateralism that have been a focal point for criticism of the United States.” Honestly. “Reaffirm”? Like China’s (stated) opposition to protectionism as such is something to be taken seriously? Or that even China takes seriously?

Are such longstanding journalistic conventions the product of simple laziness? Or of literally decades of media reliance for information and analysis on myth-makers with strong vested stakes in portraying China as a steadily reforming economy? The answer, of course, is “both” – and that the latter fosters the former.

Another example of these habits’ persistence: today’s Wall Street Journal article describing how China’s central government and major local governments are now trying to support a “private sector” that “has become a weak link in a slowing economy.” Yes, there are entities in China that are now customarily called “private sector.” But in a command economy like China’s, where the state wields power in a wide variety of direct and indirect ways, they have about as much in common with genuine private sector companies as fool’s gold has with the real thing.

But perhaps the week’s most important China media reference – at least so far – appeared in a Journal article on how the country’s farm sector is coping with the advent of high tariffs on many U.S. agricultural products. It came in the form of some statements made by China’s President, Xi Jinping that deserve major coverage on their own, but that were presented as little more than boilerplate:

“Unilateralism and trade protectionism are rising, forcing us to take the road of self reliance. This is not a bad thing. China ultimately depends on itself.”

Xi was speaking specifically about agriculture, and can’t reasonably be criticized for wanting his country to be more self-sufficient in this sector. After all, what national leader could genuinely be happy about depending on other countries for food?

But there are two glaring problems brought up by his remarks. First, as I’ve written frequently, the contemporary global trading system, and the conventional economics underlying it, condemn the quest for self-sufficiency in any part of a country’s economy as a No-No. Trade (and therefore production) patterns are supposed to help develop the most efficient global division of labor possible. In plain English, this means that countries are supposed to specialize in what they make best, and to remain satisfied with importing most of the rest. And if food production isn’t their strong suit, they should be confident that they’ll always be able to buy from abroad all that they need.

Second, as I’ve also written, China’s quest for self-sufficiency is hardly confined to food. The country’s policy record makes clear that it’s the goal for its entire economy. The regime’s Made in China 2025 manufacturing and technology program is only the latest example. Among its objectives is reducing the country’s dependence on foreign-made parts, components, and materials for a wide range of manufactures. In other words, China’s leaders aren’t satisfied with importing goods and services where it currently lacks what economists call “comparative advantage.” They want to create this advantage for China – and according to a very specific schedule of highly concrete goals.

Whether dealing with another party, it’s crucial to define it correctly, and doubly so when that party is a “competitor” or a “rival” or outright enemy. Thanks to articles like those above, Americans have just been reminded vividly how far much of their leadership class remains from achieving this objective when it comes to China.