Can America Lose to China?
The real danger of the demonization of China is that it leads even thoughtful Americans to believe that an open society like America has many natural advantages over a closed autocratic system like China’s. By framing it in this way, Americans cannot even conceive of the possibility of losing out to China.
Equally importantly, China is creating a stable and well-ordered society that is significantly improving the lives of 1.4 billion people. The political rules that govern Chinese society are not Western. The social contract worked out between the Chinese people and the Chinese government is different from Western models. But it works for the Chinese people. A peer-reviewed, credible academic study done by the Harvard Kennedy School has documented and explained how support for the Chinese government has gone up from 86 percent in 2003 to 93 percent in 2016. Support has grown even more after the Chinese government managed COVID-19 well. Most Chinese are astonished to see how badly both America and Europe have managed. Hence, they react with incredulity and disbelief when Western leaders lecture Chinese on how they can create a better society for themselves.
President Xi Jinping is a man of few words. When he visited Mexico as vice president in 2009, he said “China does not, first, export revolution; second, export poverty and hunger; third, cause troubles for you.” Most countries in the world would agree with the spirit of Xi’s statement. As long as China takes care of its people and doesn’t disrupt the world order, the rest of the world will be able to get along with China. And America will find itself isolated if it tries to isolate China.
Kishore Mahbubani, a Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, is the author of Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy (2020). More information is available at mahbubani.net.
Image: Unsplash / Yang Yang