China’s Great Leap Backward
From The Atlantic | November 16, 2016
China’s Great Leap Backward
By James Fallows, The Atlantic
James Fallows, long a China optimist and a onetime resident, writes that the superpower is less free, less open, and more belligerent than it was five years ago, or even 10. Fallows argues that now is the chance—at the start of a new administration—to command President Xi Jinping’s attention and “shape the realities in which China chooses its future course.”
China has become repressive in a way that it has not been since the Cultural Revolution, rife with repression of civil society and communication; anti-foreignism that is toughening business conditions for non-Chinese companies; and escalated military displays, that have most neighbors, with the exception of Russia and the Philippines. National correspondent James Fallows, a longtime China optimist who has lived in and visited China over the past three decades, considers a darker future—and asks what a more dangerous and adversarial China would mean for the United States.
For eight administrations, the U.S. has operated from essentially the same playbook in managing relations with modern China. Fallows writes that if we’re going to change our posture toward China, now is the chance—at the start of the new administration—to command President Xi Jinping’s attention. Fallows, as a former speechwriter, offers part of an address President-Elect Trump could give early in his administration: Chinese leaders often quote famous dictums from their literature, and I will cite one of our famous American sayings: We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. The United States would prefer the easier path of cooperation, which has been so beneficial to our two countries. But we are preparing for the hard way.
China’s Great Leap Backward excerpt:
What if china is going bad? Since early last year I have been asking people inside and outside China versions of this question. By “bad” I don’t mean morally. Moral and ethical factors obviously matter in foreign policy, but I’m talking about something different.
Nor is the question mainly about economics, although for China the short-term stability and long-term improvement of jobs, wages, and living standards are fundamental to the government’s survival. Under China’s single-party Communist arrangement, sustained economic failure would naturally raise questions about the system as a whole, as it did in the Soviet Union. True, modern China’s economic performance even during its slowdowns is like the Soviet Union’s during its booms. But the absence of a political outlet for dissatisfaction is similar.
Instead the question is whether something basic has changed in the direction of China’s evolution, and whether the United States needs to reconsider its China policy. For the more than 40 years since the historic Nixon-Mao meetings of the early 1970s, that policy has been surprisingly stable….