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posted on 28 February 2017

The U.S. vs. China

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Like it or not, the de facto race between the U.S. and China for superiority, both economic and political, has been on for the past two decades at least. Now, with Donald Trump in the White House, the shape of the race may change significantly (President Trump in the Real World of Three New Kingdoms).

As a Chinese-American, I am caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, I wish China, my native country, well - She suffered severely over the past 200 years. On the other hand, I wish America, my adopted country, well - She must stop her precipitous decline, if she ever hopes to restore her status as the shining city on the hill. Most importantly, there must be no war between the two largest economies in the world, a trade war or otherwise.

With the publication of my new book (American Democracy), in which I spelled out the steps the U.S needs to take in order to truly make America great again, I will, in the coming weeks, publish a series of articles on China, helping my fellow Americans truly understand China: its history, its culture, and most importantly, its political system.

1. What’s so special about China?

The image below highlights what is to me the most important open secret behind China’s success: the past, the present, and the future.

For more on China, read:

  1. America: What is China, Anyway?
  2. Top 10 American Misconceptions about China (Version 3).

2. The race between the U.S. and China

China, like every other country, wants prosperity, which means two things:

  1. China's economy must continue to grow rapidly.
  2. Given China's sizable population, China's economy should be the largest in the world, surpassing all other countries, including the current #1: America.

In other words, China has been racing against all countries, Usain Bolt style! America happens to be the last competitor standing – To achieve China's coveted prosperity, it must, and will, surpass America!

In contrast, America, as the reigning empire on earth, wants to retain its prominence. A big problem is the neo-cons, who think that America, and America alone, should continue to dominate the world, which means two things:

  1. Keeping the MIC (Military-Industrial Complex) going strong, even though Democratic Imperialism has proven to be just as destructive to America as Democratic Socialism.
  2. Taking down the top competitor, by any means, Tonya Harding style if necessary! For more, read: For America, AIIB and Ukraine Are Related!

3. It's the economy, stupid!

According to the IMF, China just overtook the U.S. as the world's largest economy. Although it is in terms of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) for now, it is just a matter of time before China's GDP exceeds America's. The image below highlights one projection.

The good news for America: because China's population (i.e. just less than 1.4 billion) is almost four times of America's (i.e. approaching 350 million), with the same GDP, China is still much poorer than America.

The bad news for America: China will continue the rapid growth after surpassing America, with no end in sight.

Here is a good article: How to Win a Trade War with China. Below is an excerpt.

Beijing adopted a new industrial policy in 2015, called Made in China 2025, which intends to upgrade manufacturing capabilities for high-tech products including medical devices, electric cars, and robots. Ample government cash and other favors are usually offered to such targeted sectors. A report released by an advisory council in the Obama White House in early January outlined China’s efforts to dominate the global semiconductor industry, supported by $150 billion in public or state-linked funds.

The worse news for America: Whatever China says it will accomplish becomes reality, mostly at least!

Bottom line: The current form of Chinese government works remarkably well for China. It has worked for the past three decades, at least. Is there any evidence (vs. wishful thinking) that it will stop working for the next three decades?

4. It's the political system, stupid!

America: stop bashing China and do not under-estimate China's political system: "state capitalism"! Know, and learn from, your competitor, instead!

China has the longest continuous civilization in human history, with the world's leading economy for most of the first 1,800 years of our 2017-year-old calendar. China suffered a huge set-back for about 200 years until 1978, when it started the most remarkable come-back in human history: a peaceful transformation from failing communism to successful state capitalism.

Below is a list of China's prime attributes over the past 2,000 years (thanks to the foundation laid by the First Emperor).

  1. Language: One – huge benefit!
  2. Race: One race (i.e. Han Chinese), mostly.
  3. Culture: One culture, mostly.
  4. Religion: Many Gods (e.g. Sun God, Moon God, and Water God), but no major religion, as the Emperor is the son of heaven.
  5. Authority: the Emperor.

In short, everything is up to the Emperor! A wise Emperor (“明君”) means prosperity, while a bad one means declining. A succession of bad ones means a revolution, resulting in a new (and able) Emperor.

So the biggest challenge for China has been to find a formula that guarantees a succession of wise Emperors.

Guess what? China may already have found the formula! Three informative readings:

  1. "Communist China", Really?
  2. Chinese Presidency: An Earned Kingship for 10 Years.
  3. The Legitimacy of the Chinese Government.

Needless to say, the current form of Chinese government is far from ideal. Instead, it's just slightly better than American government. For more, read: Towards an Ideal Form of Government (Version 3).

In contrast, America is almost totally opposite to China. Let's see how America corresponds to China's five prime attributes:

  1. Language: One language, but that language may be Spanish in a few decades.
  2. Race: Multiple races, with widespread racial tensions.
  3. Culture: Multiple cultures, mostly living harmoniously so far.
  4. Religion: There is [still] religious freedom in America, and church and state [still] do not mix. However, a religious war with Islam may be brewing. Very troubling, some Presidential candidates can't even answer the simple question of The Bible vs. the Constitution.
  5. Authority: A shallow question: Can any country be more exceptional than America, which was founded with neither a king nor a pope? A deep question: Will the exceptional country eventually prove to be not exceptional at all?

America has been an experiment, with much more to prove, especially in terms of longevity. For more, read: American Democracy.

5. Closing

The 20th century was undoubtedly America's. The 21st century will most likely belong to either China or America. But who will deserve it and who will ultimately claim it? China, unless America dramatically reforms its political system, as I have suggested (American Democracy)!

Stay tuned for a list of articles in the coming weeks, comparing China with the West historically and with America in modern times.

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