Picture the scene: Asia's largest economy, a counterweight to U.S. global hegemony and flush with cash from a near-miraculous expansion that's lasted decades, is on a shopping spree for American assets.
The country amasses more worldwide influence, and its companies both compete against and provide a financial lifeline to key U.S. companies.
To the casual observer, the scenario sounds a lot like modern day China. In fact, it fits the description of pre-1990 Japan—a parallel that hasn't escaped some observers.
Just as Japan's forgone economic clout—and the alacrity with which it lavished money on U.S. assets—was once a source of domestic alarm, the $18.4 billion the Chinese have sunk into U.S. investments this year is stoking new concerns. The country's struggles have sent investors running for the exits, with most of that flood of cash has found a welcome home in Silicon Valley, where startups are beginning to encounter some culture shock with their Chinese paymasters.
Meanwhile, warning signs about China's economy are emerging everywhere. On Friday, the International Monetary Fund said that China's corporate debt was "manageable but…high by any measure" at 145 percent of its growth. It all has one investor believing China in 2016 could be a source of longer-term worry, and a potential replay of Japan before its economic bubble was pierced in spectacular fashion.
"Japan 25 years ago and China now were both debt [and] currency fueled flood of cash into U.S. assets inflating both valuations and fears," Josh Wolfe, co-founder and managing partner of Lux Capital, a $700 million venture capital firm, told CNBC via email this week.
Like other skeptical investors, Wolfe believes there are "really two Chinas: A high growth tech and biotech driven economy conflated with a levered old asset state owned influenced burden of very bad decision making and governance."