It's been a tough year for U.S.-China relations, and it's about to get worse. Minnesota is the reason.

How bad will it get? Right now there's probably a Chinese nuclear sub commander, staring at his new orders, wondering why he's supposed to add Austin, Minn., to his target list.

Here's the story. I had to read it twice to make sure it wasn't a joke.

"Knock knock." Who's there? "Grievous meat usage." Grievous meat usage who?

No wait, that was a joke. No wonder I was confused. Let me find another source. ... Ah, here's how delish.com put it: "Set to roll out at McDonald's China, America's favorite burger joint is now delivering one of the most unique burgers out there: a Spam burger topped with Oreo crumbles."

Oh, it's unique, all right. You could say a patty made of crow meat topped with crumbled roof shingles is unique, too.

The first question we have, of course, is: Why? Supposedly it's the piquant contrast between the canned meat and the sweetness of the toppings, but I don't know anyone who ever made a milkshake and thought: "This would be better if I dumped in a can of dense inscrutable meat and set the mixer on purée." No one's ever bought a Spamburger at the State Fair and run over to Sweet Martha's for that final touch.

"Well," you say, "ketchup has sugar." True. But it also has vinegar, which is a kind of anti-sugar. No one would buy a Vinegar Oreo. Except perhaps the madman who invented the McSpamoreo, or whatever they call it.

It's likely that Hormel is fine with this. There's no such thing as bad publicity, the old saying goes. Actually, yes, there is. "Tornado rips warehouse, sucks up 1,000 cans of Spam, dumps them on an orphanage playground during recess" is not the sort of brand identification you would want.

Has anyone talked to the inventor? This is the sort of thing you invent when there's a big hole in your marble sack, to put it gently.

Or when you've been lauded for your creations for so long you are drunk with arrogance, like a famous fashion designer who sends his models out on the catwalk wearing Hefty bags and Crocs.

Or it's an act of contempt for the consumer. The inventor believed people would eat anything McDonald's offered, so this was the first item in the test. Coming up next:

• Spam slice and Jolly Rancher fragments with toothpaste mayo.

• Artificial crab Filet-O-Fish with stripes of crispy Twizzlers.

• All-beef patty topped with candied MyPillow innards.

• A normal hamburger, but the bun has a big Hershey's Kiss, like those cookies Mom made.

• Shamrock Snake. The name tells you everything you need to know.

If everyone not only accepts those, but stands in line overnight to be the first to get one, the inventor will know people are ready for something that truly shatters the paradigms, and he might look again to Minnesota for inspiration. By then he will have moved to China Taco Bell, which would be the best place to launch his final creation:

The Lefse Burrito with hamburger-rice hot dish. Tagline: "It's Different."

Actually, you know, that sounds pretty good.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks