Decline and displacement by authoritarian China

I saw this article while going through the news this afternoon:

IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end

And it’s a lot closer than you may think.

According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.

It provides a painful context for the budget wrangling taking place in Washington right now. It raises enormous questions about what the international security system is going to look like in just a handful of years. And it casts a deepening cloud over both the U.S. dollar and the giant Treasury market, which have been propped up for decades by their privileged status as the liabilities of the world’s hegemonic power.

This really hits me on a deep, visceral level. I understand that free trade expands the size of the pie and has pulled millions, if not billions out of poverty. But it’s hollowed out the American middle class by allowing us to consume more, but produce less. And even though trade is not zero-sum, influence in the world is. We’ve already seen what an irresponsible member of the world community China is – last summer, China signed  a $7 billion dollar mining deal with the ruling junta in Guinea-Conakry, days after the army massacred 157 people in a stadium and mass-raped dozens of women. In addition to their internal repression (see recent imprisonment of Ai Weiwei, architect of the famous Olympic “bird nest” stadium), the rise of a repressive, authoritarian China on the world stage is ominous for democracy, openness, and two centuries of liberalism.

I’m not saying America has always maintained an enlightened foreign policy. But the openness of our democracy has always required more than the pursuit of simple self-interest. China’s policy is entirely the latter. And the world will be entirely the worse for it.

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