The problem today is that China isn't willing to play the game the way the Japanese did. If we drop the purchasing power of the dollar, the Chinese, by pegging their currency to the dollar, also drop the value of their currency. The United States then pays back its debt with a cheaper dollar.
The irony is that we accuse China of playing games with their money. It's more honest to say that China just isn't willing to play the game we want to play.
But an even bigger problem is looming: It seems like the rest of the world is less willing to play our money game. That's why the European Union introduced the Euro. If China creates an Asian equivalent of the Euro (which, admittedly, is a long shot) then the U.S. dollar could be in real trouble.
If the oil-producing nations stop accepting the dollar and switch to gold or the Euro, things will definitely get sticky. The world might be tipped into a global recession and possibly even a depression.
For now, though, this funny money game continues. How long will it last? I don't know. I do know that throughout history, all paper money has eventually come back to its true value, which is zero. That's when the game truly ends, and a whole new cycle of pass the buck begins.