For those who can yet recall the backyard blast furnaces of Mao's China in the 1950s and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to re-instill peasant values in the 1970s, the news was jarring.
In 2011, said the Financial Times, China will surpass the United States as first manufacturing power, a title America has held since surpassing Great Britain around 1890.
Each years, China passes a new milestone.
Last year, China surpassed Germany as the greatest exporting nation. This year, China surpasses Japan as the world's second-largest economy. This year, China became the first auto manufacturer on earth.
For a decade, China has been running history's largest trade surpluses with the United States and has amassed a hoard of $2.3 trillion in foreign currency. She now holds the mortgage on America.
How has China vaulted to the forefront in manufacturing, trade and technology? Export-driven economic nationalism.
Beijing cut the value of its currency in half in 1994, doubling the price of imports, slashing the price of exports and making Chinese labor the best bargain in Asia. Foreign firms were invited to relocate their plants in China and told this was the price of access to the Chinese market. Beijing began looting these firms of technology, as she sent her sons to study in America. Industrial espionage and intellectual property theft became Chinese specialties.
And how has America fared in the new century?
One in every three manufacturing jobs we had in 2000, nearly 6 million, vanished. Some 50,000 U.S. factories shut down. We have run trade deficits totaling $5 trillion since NAFTA passed. The real wages of working Americans have been stagnant for a decade.
While China has resumed her 12 percent growth rate, the United States, with 25 million unemployed or underemployed, appears headed for a double-dip recession.
Yet, even as the end of America's tenure as the world's first manufacturing power was being announced, The Wall Street Journal admonished us to keep our eyes on the prize: a new world order where it does not matter who produces what or where.
"The pursuit of some ideal global 'balance' in trade and capital flows is an illusion. ... World leaders would do better to worry less about (trade) imbalances and more about whether their own nations are pursuing policies that contribute to global prosperity."
There you have it -- the conflict in visions between us.