One of my personal favorites growing up: King Kong vs Godzilla. Of course, King Kong was from Skull Island by way of New York, and Godzilla was from Odo Island Japan – not quite America vs. China but close enough for a 9-year old.
The industrial revolution(s) afforded industry the opportunity to grow without factoring in environmental costs. Steel, Railroads, Electricity, Cars, Oil & Gas, Chemical production all came on the scene decades before environmental regulation caught up. In the 30s, 40s, & 50s the highest annual US GDP growth was consistently in the high single digits (5%-9%) and occasionally low double-digits (10%-18%). The 60s, 70s, & 80s were more of the same albeit in the 3% to 6% range. The 90s & 2000s more like 2% to 3%. With 3% of the world population and 25% of the world's GDP – America is still the undisputed wealthiest country on earth in terms of currency. America was front and center for both the first and second Industrial Revolutions – while China labored as an agrarian society.
Amazingly, before the industrial revolution(s) it was China (and India) that were the preeminent economic powerhouses. Apparently, Economic turnabout is fair-play. Fast FW: China started its industrial revolution in the 60s becoming the manufacturing capital of the world, today producing 50% of the world’s major industrial goods - Crude Steel, Cement, Coal, Vehicles, Ships, Trains, Robots, Computers, Cell-Phones. Since the 1990s, China’s GDP growth was consistently in the high single digits (5%-9%) and occasionally low double-digits (10%-18%). From agrarian to the worlds industrial giant in 30 years without factoring in environmental costs.
The result: An estimated 1.5 million people a-year succumb to premature death due to air and water pollution. Most cities are shrouded in a daily thick smog-like polluted state – a problem highlighted by the Beijing Olympics. A large section of the ocean is devoid of marine life due to excessive algae bloom. Cancer is the leading cause of death. Apparently, the true cost of GDP growth goes far beyond anything trade-tariffs can balance.