Last week, I noted that the GOP's defense hawks have taken to accusing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats of exploiting America's health care crisis to further their long-term "plot" to curtail defense spending -- and, by extension, our nation's capacity for military interventions abroad. The implied beneficiary of this "unilateral surrender"? Why, the Chinese, of course, who'd thereby be left free to conquer the developing world in their unending quest to secure raw materials.
But a funny thing happened on the way to China's presumed domination of the world's natural resources: It ran into the same core problem that America suffers -- namely, skyrocketing health care costs combined with too many citizens lacking access. Indeed, it's fair to say that health care reform stands at the center of both nations' efforts to address the "rebalancing" challenge revealed by last year's global financial panic. And just like America needs more help from China in managing the global security environment, our health care system could logically benefit from China's ambitious quest to expand primary health care coverage to its population.
We're already familiar with the basic challenges. America needs to export more, while China needs to develop its domestic market and depend less on export-driven growth. The former demands an increase in U.S. economic competitiveness, which greater cost control in health care can deliver. And the latter requires convincing the average Chinese consumer to stop saving so much to fend off the costs of catastrophic illness. At the end of the day, the goals of reform in both countries are essentially the same: slowing the growth of health care costs to something approaching inflation (or GDP growth in China's case), and preventing household bankruptcies from medical disasters.