So this just happened: Xi Jinping Casts Communist Party as China’s Savior on Centenary of Founding – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
The hundredth anniversary of the CCP on July 1 saw the finest bluster from Xi Jinping, e.g. China will not be oppressed, China will not be sanctimoniously preached to, China will not be bullied.
I think though, that Xi’s statements should be remembered when we think of China’s growth. Yes, they will pass up the U.S. as the largest economy. Yes, they hold a large amount of U.S. debt. Yes, they are reaching into Arabia, Africa, and Asia and Europe, planning to extend their One Belt One Road infrastructure programs. Technologically, they are stretching their tendrils into many nations in the West and developing nations. They are flexing their muscles as their military has more servicemen and their armed forces are increasing in numbers. They are even practicing for an invasion of Taiwan and planning to build other military bases across the world.
First the debt. If the Chinese recalled the debt, they would be more damaged than the U.S. Japan has the third largest economy and alternates with China in in U.S. debt owned.
But the gross domestic products (GDP) of the U.S. and China say a lot about the differences. The U.S. has 330 million residents versus China’s 1.3 billion residents. But the U.S. has a GDP of $20.49 trillion, which China will indeed pass up (2032), and $65,298 per capita gross domestic product — which China is a long way off from matching. China currently has a rising GDP of $13.4 trillion, but only $10,217 per capita (US News and World Report). In spite of some of its technologically-advanced cities, many Chinese citizens live in poverty.
The West is also not taking One Belt One Road (also called the Belt and Road Initiative) lying down. In response, the United States, Japan and Australia have formed a counter initiative, the Blue Dot Network in 2019 and Australia announced this April that it will pull out of Belt and Road completely. Also, recently, at the G-7 Summit in Cornwall, President Biden announced the “Build Back Better for the World” initiative (B3W), which intends to offer developing nations an alternative to OBOR.
Militarily, the Chinese do have the numbers and determination, but still lag behind the U.S. in power.
“Despite the progress made by China’s military over the past two decades, ‘major gaps and shortcomings remain’ in readiness and operational capability, the report said, but China’s leaders are acutely aware of the problems and have detailed plans to overcome them” (Military.com).
Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Wednesday that while China has built a larger Navy fleet, it is still no match for the U.S. Navy (Business Insider).
And with technological progress, we must remember that China is an anti-democratic, oppressive, authoritarian surveillance state. As the New York Times put it: “Xi Jinping has ruled with an iron fist, imposing harsh crackdowns to quash dissent.” The party are the ones bullying and oppressing China’s minorities, including but not limited to Hong Kong, the Uighurs, and its mainland population (remember Tiananmen Square). With this awareness, are we ever to believe that they really are as great a nation as the U.S.? They will be bigger, but not greater.
Does a great nation intern, reeducate and crush the culture of its minorities; assault and jail peaceful democratic protestors; close down opposition newspapers; institute surveillance and “social credit scores” (raising for those who behave properly); disappear people who speak out or oppose the party; coerce its (and U.S.) citizens living overseas to promote the party’s propaganda and plans; or take down companies that are becoming too strong for the party?
The U.S. does extend its cultural influence worldwide by being the center of culture with its entertainment industry: music, TV, and movies. But it is also a bulwark of freedom. Millions come here every year. We have a diversity that is made stronger by our unity. Bluster from a strong man should not discourage us, nor deter our resolve to spread democracy and human rights, perhaps imperfectly at times, but as a shining example of what freedom is.
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