China was not tilting at windmills when its government decided to make huge investments in wind power, solar energy and high-speed rail as a way of fast tracking its way out of recession.

The budding superpower makes clear its goal of being on top of new technologies driving the global economy, and has the decisiveness to act when the United States is bogged down in political divisions.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., recently led a bipartisan delegation from our stagnating U.S. Senate on a fact-finding trip to the Middle Kingdom.

“I was surprised this time at their aggressiveness, which I had not seen before,” Murray said over coffee on Friday. “They feel the United States has faltered a bit while they are driving.”

Western journalists and scientists have witnessed the tailwind behind China’s rapid expansion into wind power: They come away sharing a conclusion: These people are serious — and competent.

It’s not days of Cold War-era competition when wags could joke about the Soviet Union building the world’s largest microchip. Or when “The Great Leap Forward,” China’s touted cargo ship, rolled down the gangway at launch, and promptly rolled over and sank.

The flip side of the pattern has been lost: The United States no longer seems committed to common goals. Not so long ago, we were unsurpassed when it came to innovation and mobilization.

Stung as the Soviets launched their Sputnik satellites, and put Yuri Gagarin in space, the United States was driven by John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting a man on the move before the end of the 1960’s.

In World War II, Nazi Germany boasted of its “Leadership Principle” and coordination. But look what happened when the treads met the road. We built something like 50,000 Sherman tanks to Germany’s 5,000 Tigers.

The post-war United States was so robust, compared to Allies across the Atlantic, that a French author’s best-selling book, “The American Challenge,” depicted a Europe outmatched in management, research capacity, and technology application.

Well, that was then.

Nowadays, as Vice President Joe Biden pointed out in Seattle on Friday, high-speed rail travel is “inching along” in the United States while trains in China and Spain can do 220 miles an hour.

As of today, the United States has more windmills in operation, but China is fast making energy from the winds of its deserts and perfecting the technology. Will we, as Biden suggested, have to cross the Pacific or Atlantic “to purchase the parts for our windmills?”

What about us? The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a climate bill. It is, like so much else, stalled in the Senate. Two big snowstorms in Washington, D.C., may have smothered its chances of enactment.

The oil and coal lobbyists can rejoice. Just last week a British newspaper, The Independent, revealed how Exxon Mobil continues to fuel quasi-scientific organizations of climate change skeptics.

But look at everything else that is on the table.

Is it healthy for the United States to indulge its fossil fuel addiction by importing $100 billion to $200 billion worth of oil each year? Is it in our interest for the addiction to drive our foreign policy choices?

A superpower rival is threatening to snatch away our historic advantage in technology. Creative, ingenious Americans developed the first solar cells: Now China seeks to corner the market.

“We shouldn’t see this as just a fear: I prefer to take it as a challenge,” Murray said on Friday.

Governors of three West Coast states and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell inaugurated what they call the Pacific Coast Collaborative on Friday in Vancouver, just before opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

They united in common goals — jobs and strengthening the Pacific Coast economy, advancing action on clean energy, and protecting the marine environment.

In Campbell’s words, the objective is “advancing North America’s West Coast as a global leader in the new low-carbon economy, ocean health, renewable energy and transportation.”

Or as the “Governator,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, put it, “the rest of the world will follow the steps we are taking . . .”

Not if these are baby steps. The strides are currently being made across the Pacific. Will we unleash innovation, as advocated by leaders from the “Left Coast,” or remain mired in political dysfunction?

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