Between America and China There Is No “Right” Side: The Wolf Testifying Against the Fox in the Monkey’s Court

The trade war with China escalates. We try to sort out who did what to whom. If we are not knee-jerk patriots, we wonder who is “right”. We attempt to cut through the jungle of contradictory opinions to find the path of resolution.

One answer comes to us from the 17thcentury menagerie of Jean de La Fontaine’s fables:

A wolf said that he’d been robbed. A fox, his neighbor, with a pretty shady life, was called to court on charges of theft. They pleaded the case before the monkey, no lawyers, each party representing himself.

Themis, the Titaness who personified the divine order, fairness and the law, had never had to deal with a more convoluted case. Her emissary, the monkey magistrate was sweating on his throne of justice.

After the case had been fully contested, rebutted, yelled and stormed about, the judge, knowing a little something about the parties’ unsavory backgrounds, said:

I have known you a long time, my friends, and both of you are going to pay the fine. You, wolf, you are bringing a complaint about something that wasn’t even stolen from you. And you, fox, you did what you are accused of at some point.

The monkey judge justified his decision this way—the court can’t miss, condemning someone corrupt.

[*a very rare note from the author defending this fable: A few sensible people have criticized the impossibility and contradiction in the monkey’s judgment. But I am just repeating what Phaedrus wrote and that is the good word, in my opinion. La Fontaine]

Huawei is not a nefarious spy operation disguised as a technology company. Or at least, no more than Google. Everyone is spying on each other; oh, and on you. Right or wrong is not a factor in the dispute. Posturing is the mode of interaction. The parties play at Spy vs Spy; as greedy hands dart out from under their trench coats of righteousness to grab trade advantages.

Huawei is cast as evil, because that company dared to develop 5G faster and better than any U.S. company has so far. By closing the border, Trump gives American companies a chance to catch up (possibly by stealing their competitor’s technology via corporate espionage, who knows). If there were a judge, the court couldn’t miss condemning both sides. But there is no judge, except Time.

In the meantime, we are all condemned, to disarray in the supply chain and higher prices on everything from clothing to technology. Maybe Trump will even succeed in bringing the brittle Chinese economy to its knees, exponentially increasing the fragmentation and punishing price increases.

The world segments and contests, convolutes and rebuts, yells and storms. And the Titaness Themis waits for us to wake up and begin working together toward fairness and a more divine order.


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