8 Things China Has on Us

May 26, 2017

Around the globe, things are changing. The US is no longer the best at everything. China is the contender for global leadership. Perhaps we can improve by considering some of China’s advantages:

  1.  Leadership. China has an experienced leader who came up through the ranks. He doesn’t shoot from the hip. He is not a laughingstock. China has a meritocratic system of choosing leaders in its federalist system.
  2. China has a governance structure which gets things done–fast. Infrastructure, cities, commerce, the new Belt & Road Initiative.
  3. China’s economic growth rate will continue to outdistance ours for the foreseeable future. As a result, the Chinese have a better opportunity to enable upward mobility and to moderate inequality. Growth alone is insufficient to enable these, but it is certainly necessary, short of strong interventions, which the US dedication to free markets prohibits. And while some have questioned China’s ability to compete with the US in innovation, it is increasingly clear they can. Just take look at what is happening in the Pearl River Delta.
  4. China has more than $3 Trillion in foreign reserves. The US has only a little over $100 Billion. China has a trade surplus of around $500 Billion. Our President says he can’t find one country with which we have a trade surplus.
  5. China’s heterogenous institutional and financial management across 30 years has avoided every single one of the world’s financial crises across that period, while ours has has exposed us to many, notwithstanding our complex and costly regulatory system. We have also initiated many crises, impacting the world. We increasingly seem to resent and starve government, while the Chinese maintain a strong balance between government and business. The Chinese government invests in key research to the benefit of Chinese business.
  6. China does not engage in foreign wars, does not meddle, and does not try to proselytize or impose its values on other nations.
  7. Chinese citizens do not carry guns. Murders are rare in China.
  8. China is not a focus of external terrorism. One might surmise that there is something working poorly in Western foreign relations, resulting in enmity toward the US and other nations.

Say what you will about dictatorship. Say it will never survive the long term. Say it inevitably leads to corruption at the top. Say Chinese leadership is currently harshly eliminating those who threaten the Party.

Then consider our President’s attempt to surround himself with only those who pledge allegiance to him. Then consider that we currently have an investigation going in regard to possible campaign collaboration with Russia and our election. Consider the Supreme Court’s disapproval of districting in NC and Texas. Is there a difference between us an China? Perhaps, but only by degree.

I could easily make a different list of things we still have over China, starting with democracy and human rights. But our prized democracy is functioning very poorly now. Our human rights are nothing to brag about, considering our incarceration rates, our attitude toward Muslims and Mexicans, and our still lacking full acceptance of race, gender, and sexual preferences.

There are three generally agreed factors determining world power: Economic, soft power (reputation globally), and military.  It’s easy to see we can no longer command the first two. Military might alone won’t do it, Mr. President. We’re already spending more than the next eight countries combined.

Pew Research reports that 49% surveyed globally believe China will surpass the US as global leader. Only 34% disagree. This view is also widely held by many of our strongest European allies. This doesn’t bother me–not at all.

It would behoove us to consider China’s advantages, welcome China to the world leadership table, and maybe even learn from China.

I don’t recommend we emulate China. China is far from perfect. We are different. But, I don’t recommend we strive to be #1 in the world in global power. That time is past. It’s past partly because of our failures, but mostly because of the natural ascendence of other strong nations. I don’t recommend we try to make America great at the expense of others globally.

I recommend we try to fix our own shortcomings, be the best possible government for all our citizens, and set a gold standard of global citizenship. This is what I want our new President to focus on. If we can be better than China at these things, I will be satisfied, and a very proud American.

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