manchurian boeing

Last Wednesday, in a New York Times article on President Hu Jintao visiting President Obama, I read the following: ‘Among the deals announced on Wednesday morning was one in which the Chinese government authorized Chinese companies to buy 200 airplanes from Boeing, worth $19 billion.’ The sentence reminded me of a scene in the cyberpunk-novel ‘Interface.’ One of the protagonists, Floyd Wayne Vishniak, watches William A. Cozzano—a 21st Century manchurian candidate running for president—on television:

Cozzano looked snappy in his homburg, the sort of old-fashioned men’s hat that had gone out of fashion when JFK had refused to wear one, and that Cozzano was now singlehandedly bringing back into fashion. In the middle of his campaign-kickoff address, a new 767, painted with the logo of Japan Airlines, taxied on to the runway. […]
    “There are those who say that we are doomed to be a secondrate power, subjugated to the Japanese,” Cozzano said, just as the big Boeing jet was beginning its takeoff run. Vishniak clenched his teeth and became enraged, as he always did when people said this kind of thing.
    “To those people,” Cozzano continued, “I only have one thing to say: BEHOLD!” He turned aside and swept out one arm toward the jet, then watched it take off. To shout above the stream of its turbofans would have been futile, would have made him look tiny by comparison. As Vishniak watched the miniature figure of the jet take off on his little screen, saw it bank into its turn, exposing the Rising Sun logo painted on its tail fin, his anger was replaced by a surge of defiant pride. Sure the economic situation looked bleak, but a country that could make airplanes like that could accomplish anything if it just set its mind to it. (Stephenson & Jewsbury 1994: chpt. 48)

No matter if fictive or factive, whenever an Asian economic superpower threatens to dwarf US-technology and -industry, you simply have to sell them a heap of Boeing jets, and American self-confidence is restored instantly, as it seems ;-)

STEPHENSON, NEAL [TOWN] AND GEORGE JEWSBURY. 1994. Interface. New York: Bantam.
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