by Frank Li
Hello from China! Agian, it’s time for me to write about China to my fellow Americans, from China!
Have you seen this article: “Everything You Think You Know About China Is Wrong”? I did, quite a few months ago.
What a sensational title! But the content is so yesterday that I commented with two simple questions:
How often does the author visit China?
When was he in China last time?
To my surprise, Prof. Minxin Pei replied as follows:
“I visited China, on average, 3-5 times a year for the past 13 years.”
“I was in China at the end of April 2012.”
So he knows China, both yesterday and today, just as well as I do! Why, then, are we totally opposite in our view of China, today and tomorrow? More importantly, who is right?
Both of us earned an under-graduate degree in China in 1982. Mine is in engineering, while his in liberal arts.
Both of us have lived more time outside China than inside. Additionally, I think my two graduate degrees from the University of Tokyo (a.k.a. “The Harvard of Japan”) and Vanderbilt (a.k.a. “The Harvard of the South”) compare well to his Ph.D. degree from Harvard (a.k.a. “The Vanderbilt of the North”).
We are different in two critical ways:
He is an academic scholar (i.e. a liberal most likely), while I am a self-made businessman (i.e. a conservative most likely). He writes for a living, for which popularity matters, while I write for fun, for which popularity is less important.
He has been writing about China throughout his career, while I started just a few years ago, which is to my advantage: he has to stick to the same line for continuity, while I had the luxury of a fresh look, being much older and wiser at the start.
As a matter of fact, I was following the same line of thinking 15 years ago as Prof. Pei is today. I could even have written a similar article like that then, had I not been too busy with my career in IT (Information Technology). Fortunately, I did not do that, or I would be totally embarrassed today. Unfortunately and understandably, Prof. Pei appears to have been writing along the same line over the past two decades, without fundamental changes, despite the fact that China has fundamentally changed. For example, China’s GDP was about $445B in 1990, but more than $7T in 2011!
The good news is that each of us has our own list of publications for you to judge. The bad news is that his view is more popular than mine in America, which could put the U.S.-China relations in serious jeopardy!
I have published a lot about China, with my book Saving America, Chinese Style summarizing them all.
Here are my three simple messages to my fellow Americans:
China is a competitor, not an enemy. Everything China does is for her own interest, which, unfortunately, happens to be unseating the U.S. as #1 in economy. Worse yet for the U.S., this competitor has been getting better only, while we are not getting better fast enough, if at all.
The U.S. can learn a lot from China, and vice versa, from a big subject like free trade to a vast subject like democracy (Towards An Ideal Form of Government).
Here is a quote: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Who said it? Abraham Lincoln!
In the U.S., there is a lot of misinformation about China for two main reasons:
Some people, including Prof. Pei perhaps, are just trying to make a living, as life can be tough for the folks with degrees in liberal arts. For example, there are so many scholars whose life has been banked on democracy that any deviation from that could put their livelihood in jeopardy. How can you possibly expect them to think outside of the box for a massive subject like “democracy, as we know it today, does not work”? It would be totally suicidal for them, career-wise!
You must recognize the real experts and listen to them!
Everything possible must be done to avoid conflicts between the U.S. and China, the two most powerful nations on earth today! The best way to do that is via improved understanding and communication.
Speaking of understanding and communication, here is my simple explanation of the two most important phenomena in the world today:
What’s the reason behind China’s rise? Capitalism!
What’s the reason behind America’s decline? Destructive socialism!
The Chinese should be grateful to President Nixon for opening the door in 1972, so should all Americans – President Nixon proved to be one of the best American Presidents, in [recent] history (Barack Obama vs. Richard Nixon)!
Finally, be very careful about the “dissidents”, both the dissident people and the dissident views, be they the Chinese dissidents today or the Iraqi dissidents before the Iraq War. They can be very dangerous. We saw it in the case of Iraq (Yes, they encouraged the U.S. to launch the Iraq War) and let’s hope we will not see it in the case of China.
Peace and prosperity, not war and debt!