Power is not only economic and military: it is moral. And I don’t mean humanitarian, as necessary as humanitarianism is for the American brand. But in this case, I mean something harder: the fidelity of our word in the minds of allies. And that predictability is gone.”
Unable to look ourselves in the mirror and see our flaws and limitations, we concentrated too much on our military, and invaded or intervened in one Muslim country after another in the 2000s and achieved nothing as a result.
Thus, the competition between the United States and China will coincide with a political-cultural crisis of the West against a resurgent East.
Yet, even at our worst, our political system is open and capable of change in the way that China, and that other great autocratic power, Russia, are not. A world in which the United States is the dominant power will be a more humane world of more personal freedoms than a world led by China.
In the end the competition between China and America, as it was between the US and USSR, is a competition between ideas and values. China cannot take America’s place because no matter how much material prosperity it brings, people will not value authoritarianism and oppression once they have enough materially. Hong Kong and Taiwan are models of the future not Beijing.
A divided America is in danger of collapse, cheered on by China. But a united America, confident in its values and strengths will certainly outlast and contain the Chinese dreams of empire, just as it did the Soviet one.
All criticisms of America aside (and, yes, there are plenty) it is ABSOLUTELY superior to China in one vital way. American democracy, for all its flaws, is better than ANY form of authoritarian rule. Chinese communism (or whatever China wants to call it) involves stripping the Chinese people of their basic human rights, their culture, and their individualism. WHY would China’s neighbors “trust” China when they can’t even govern according to the will of their own people?
In the end, we have two major schools of thought vying for the leading role in the world. One is a heavily-flawed democracy, and the other is an oppressive regime.
The next battle front is economic, and China is doing its best to prepare. However, China still has far too much dependency on US manufacturing to survive that battle. The longer China delays the battle, the better for China. Unfortunately for China, the US has fired the warning shot with the tariff “war”, and China is ill-prepared for the battle right now.
If China tries to fight the economic war today, it has already lost. If they agree to the primary concessions requested by the US , without giving up too much, they will live to fight another day. With another 10-15 years of expansion, China may be able to win the economic war.
The Chinese people deserve a better form of government. The American people deserve a better government. The difference is that America’s government is a flawed version of the better form of governance. China’s government is an efficient version of a flawed form of governance. Flawed democracy is better than perfect Communism every time.