Thoughts from the Frontline

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Latest Issue

Red Hot China Mailbag

October 12, 2018

An odd aspect of being a writer is you never know in advance what will excite readers. I’ve written letters I thought very provocative only to draw mostly yawns.

Last week’s trade deficit letter lit some fireworks. The response was immediate and, in many cases, quite passionate in both directions. I got emails from old friends and longtime readers saying it was my best letter in years. Others said I had lost my marbles or gone over to the dark side. In fact, my whole China series has generated a lot of response. Evidently, I kicked the anthill.

I always appreciate feedback, even when it’s negative. Our staff collects feedback from social media, the comment threads on our website, email, and probably other ways unknown to me. They dutifully assemble it into one document and distribute it to the team. When that email hits my inbox, it gets top priority and I read them all. I always learn a great deal. An amazing number of intelligent, articulate people read these letters. So today, I’ll feature some reader comments from recent weeks and explain further where my point perhaps wasn’t clear.

While it is nearly always dangerous to make broad associations, the responses generally broke down into “John, you said it clearly and I wish everyone would read this,” and “John, you simply don’t understand the danger that China is, either geopolitically or trade wise, and we have to stop their cheating.”

As I read the responses, I realized that my letter didn’t have all the nuance I...

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