For a brief, ill-considered moment, the president of JPMorgan Chase rooted for American style-capitalism over China’s state-controlled communist regime. But then Jamie Dimon, who said a well-run U.S. corporation will outlast Beijing’s totalitarian government, apologized. After all, one needs to be careful what one says these days, right?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, to “kowtow” means to “kneel and touch the ground with the forehead in worship or submission as part of Chinese custom.” It’s happening a lot these days, but to have the captain of one of America’s best-known banks do it is discouraging. Consider it a harbinger of things to come.

What do you call it when a former chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has a Chinese intelligence asset on her staff for 20 years, and the story — not the senator — disappears?  Or when a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has an affair with a Chinese spy and doesn’t lose his access to top-secret briefings?

You call it business as usual in Washington.

This morning The New York Times ran a long, elaborate story about “Disinformation” and alongside it a photo of the New York Post’s coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop matter last year. At the time, recall, we were informed that the laptop was nothing more than Russian disinformation.

But the Post story has aged pretty well: Hunter Biden does not deny that the laptop might be his; nor does he deny writing various emails including one that referenced “the Big Guy” getting his 10% cut of a $1 billion deal with China, brokered soon after the younger Biden flew to China on his father’s official plane.

And now the government is committing to spending trillions of dollars it does not have, which means that money will have to be borrowed from somewhere. The smart people like to say that China as a global power has hit is zenith and is about to start rolling back downhill. But it sure doesn’t look that way.

After all, as brave Jamie Dimon just demonstrated, we’re not allowed to speak openly about China. It took more effort than it should have to pass a resolution calling for the street outside the PRC’s Washington embassy to be named after Nobel Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo and now, and now there is a new effort to rename it after Wuhan whistleblower Li Wenliang, but don’t hold your breath: An act of Congress isn’t enough to change the name of a D.C. street, somehow.

It’s one thing to snivel and scrape before another power, much the way most Republicans did before Trump. Yet when you undercut your own interests to please that power, the whole exercise deserves another look. That’s what happened last week when for reasons that confound anyone who understands how energy markets work, the United States decided jointly with China to release some of our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a silly stab at lowering gas prices.

Until last week, we had just over 600 million barrels of oil tucked away for emergencies. To be clear, this is enough to feed American consumption at current rates for three days. In a soft-headed play to “give the people a Thanksgiving present” as one supporter put it, Biden let some of that strategic oil reserve flow so, for a couple days, we simple folks could save a few pennies at the pump right around the same time there’d be a reason to spend them just as quickly at Walmart.

There’s nothing new to kowtowing politicians. Undercutting your own security, both physical and economic, is a problem for a free country. According to Bob Woodward’s last scoop, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley felt he had to call the Chinese after Jan. 6 to assure them we weren’t about to launch a strike against them. Why should their worrying even be a problem?

It is because today the shoe is on the other foot.

Instead of policing what we say about China, maybe we can spend the same energy regaining our footing. Holiday shopping season is in full swing now. Consider buying gifts that don’t have to be carried on cargo ships across the Pacific. It’s a small but useful step us regular folks can take.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.