Months before President Obama mentioned 'Sputnik moment' in his State of the Union address, the New York Times columnist said the idea was an intentional exaggeration.
Are American leaders purposely overplaying the Chinese competitive threat with references to Sputnik?
President Obama said in his State of the Union address that the country faces a “Sputnik moment,” one that calls for a major research investment in next generation technologies. Sputnik evokes a superpower rivalry, one in which America is purportedly in danger of losing due to falling education standards and research focus.
“Let's be honest. Sputnik was a beeping aluminum grapefruit. Yes, the Soviets were able to get an artificial satellite in orbit before the Americans. But at the time, the Americans were ahead in metallurgy, were ahead chemistry, were at electronics; the Russians were simply able to launch something into orbit sooner. As a result, the Americans panicked.”
The overreaction was beneficial to the country in the long-term, but it was built on a hyped threat.
Another thought leader who uses the language of Sputnik is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, one of the chief prophets of globalization and author of "The World is Flat." In an on-the-record talk with journalists at the New Delhi foreign correspondents club late last year, Mr. Friedman admitted candidly that he is trying to scare Americans about rising China and India – to get his countrymen to prepare better for global competition.