Was the Chimerica construct, the pattern of trade/finance in place since 2001, really just a scam?
In the scheme everyone benefited (the finance sector, China, Multinational corps, the US gov't) except the American citizen. The benefits of any perceived economic growth didn't flow down -- and as a result didn't become real.
A scam like this is unsustainable. It has to be unwound. However, since none of the parties involved want to rebalance to a sustainable solution, it's inevitable that it will end badly. This puts the recent pronouncements from the church of "free trade" on the recent trade spat between the US and China in perspective.
Free trade is an ephemeral concept that is so elusive that a sighting of it is akin to witnessing a Catholic miracle.