Opinion | The impossible country---Looking at China upside down
By Philip Yeung, a university teacher
The West sees China through America's jaundiced eyes. This optical misalignment could spell another geopolitical disaster.
The US-China bilateral relationship is on a knife's edge. When asked what his priorities are, the US Air Force Chief replied emphatically:
"China, China, and China."
This poisonous view prevails among Republicans, and has seeped into the collective thinking of the West. Biden used to call President Xi an old friend. Now, he sheepishly disowns this friendship. In the US-China tug-of-war, friendship can't even be an afterthought.
To America, the only good China is a weak China.
Who appoints America to be judge and jury in world affairs? Isn't that the role for the UN? The US wraps itself in its self-proclaimed Monroe Doctrine. But it rejects similar "spheres of influence" for other powers, saber-rattling in Russia's backyard in Ukraine or China's front porch across the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
They are now openly talking about "Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow." This is the talk of the demented.
China is a victim of US misleading advertising. It carries the communist label, but China is in fact a hybrid country—part socialist, part capitalist, and deeply Confucianist.
In the China dream, Marx, Confucius and Adam Smith are all comfortable political bedfellows. It's the boldest, sweetest experiment in human government.
Here's a new theory to decode China-- "cognitive dissonance"--i.e. what you hear or see is not what you get.
First, what the West thinks it knows of China is dangerously outdated, by at least 30 years.
These three decades have no equal in history. China has completely reinvented itself. It's hooked on rationality and innovation.
It no longer worships at the altar of ideology. It worships success and preaches peaceful co-existence.
In a nutshell, it is 300 years, nay, 3000 years' worth of change squeezed into 30 years. China has leapfrogged history. It's totally and fantastically unrecognizable.
Western understanding of China lags far behind reality.
China's speed of change has defied every law of physics.
At the outbreak of coronavirus, 100 excavators and bulldozers swung into action, round-the-clock, and within 10 days, a 1000-bed hospital was up and running. Its bridges, highways and high-speed trains are eye-popping and built at breakneck speed.
By contrast, the US has 56,000 bridges that are structurally deficient, with one embarrassingly collapsing before Biden's visit. So busy waging foreign wars that US infrastructure is given a D+ rating by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
China's creative energies are economic and scientific. It's the only society on earth where a street beggar has his own QR code for collecting handouts. It beggars belief.
The world's only cashless society, with no one carrying cash, China has taken pickpockets and robbers off the streets.
This highlights a point missed by democracy advocates: safety.
What good is freedom if you are dead or fearing for your life? Nearly 75% of New Yorkers are worried about street violence. In China, it is perfectly safe to walk or jog in the park in the middle of the night. Freedom is a many-dimensioned concept, not least, freedom from fear and the right to life. In the US, you enjoy the freedom to die-- by gun violence, road rage, or racial assaults. Take your pick. Gun-related massacres are too frequent to be front-paged.
Trust is another key component embedded in democracy. The US accuses China of "oppressing" its people. Did you ever bother to ask the Chinese people if they feel "oppressed"? According to a 3-year Harvard study, over 93% of the Chinese trust their government. Trump's approval was in the low 30%, Biden's is only slightly higher. America is bitterly divided. China is united by a common purpose.
This means if you call China your enemy, you are taking on 1.4 billion people. Every time America tightens its rope on China, the Chinese jump to their nation's defense. China is no longer "a pan of loose sands". You can't demonize China's leaders without demonizing its people.
China is free of religious fanaticism. Christopher Hitchens, the late renowned atheist, could tell you how much religious extremism has harmed humanity. In the US, the far-right Christian red-necks are seething with hate for colored people.
China is undergoing DNA-altering changes. It's still a work in progress. America wants freedom for the individual. Why not freedom for a country too? Let peaceful China be free to seek or define its own destiny. Leave China alone to test the limits of its dreams, letting technology and innovation work their magic.
The China dream is predicated on harmony, the US one on confrontation. One leads to prosperity, the other to conflict.
The Chinese mandate hinges on two things: Improving livelihood; and keeping the nation humiliation-proof, given its history of dismemberment by foreign powers.
The US is driven by negativity---its language is "containment", "sanctions", and "alliances". China talks peace and common prosperity.
Is there an Achilles' heel in the Chinese system? Yes. China is a nation of engineers, who rescued their nation with science and technology. That target has been exceeded. Now it must produce communicators to tell the China story, and not let America distort it.
Look at the ledger. On one side is China, which has kept its nose clean, giving the world 30 years of low inflation by its manufactured goods, sending no soldiers to foreign countries, only its builders and traders. On the other, America has blood on its hands, waging one war after another, killing civilians by the millions and plunging markets into financial meltdowns. Who is the good guy, and who is the bad guy now?
The alleged evidence of "evil" in China is entangled in its domestic affairs. A nation enjoying success is too busy to "oppress" its people. Just explain: How come Hong Kong enjoyed unfettered freedom for 23 years until rioters trashed the city? And how come no Muslim country has accused China of "genocide"?
To understand China, you must first understand its accuser. America has parted company with the truth. Fake electors tried to steal Biden's victory. State legislatures try to suppress the black vote. The lunatic fringe is now front and center, the margins are becoming mainstream. During the Capitol riots, Congress members cowered in fear behind their desks, with the mob howling to hang VP Mike Pence alive. And yet, the National Republic Committee is calling this violent insurrection "legitimate political discourse". How do you trust a divided nation whose leaders lie through the teeth?
A rogue state that obeys no rules but its own, how can America still morally lead the world? In a hung congress, one loner senator named Manchin scuttled Biden's Build Back Better plan---a "tyranny of the minority"-- and you are telling the world that democracy is the best form of government.
Amoral, anti-science and rape-accused Trump has not made America great again. He has made the world mad again.
America's anti-China disinformation is outdated cold-war hysteria, invoking Soviet ghosts to haunt China-Europe relations.
During the Vietnam war, protestors shouted: "Make love, not war." Today's China says, "Make money, not war."
Whatever the GDP says, the 21st century is about China, not America.
China, the impossible country is a unique "gentle giant". It has left its Cultural Revolution days and ways behind forever. They say failure is a great teacher. I say, for China, success is an even greater teacher—a nation fearless in experimentation, soon to build the 9447 km-long Beijing to Berlin railway corridor and divert water from Tibet to irrigate the parched northwest. China thinks big, acts bold and swift. It's no North Korea or Venezuela. It's no America which has lost its moral compass, directionless Britain which has lost an empire but not yet found a role, or masochistic and strategically dumb Australia.
China stands alone---a country that is mankind at its rational best. This is the brave new world, with China at its center. No label has yet been invented to describe the extraordinary China phenomenon. Why not simply call it the Millennial Miracle?
Confucius would be clucking his approval in his grave, and Marx should be jumping out of his coffin.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.
Read more articles by Philip Yeung:
Opinion | No more stupid wars, hot or cold
Opinion | China on a high-wire over the Grand Canyon
Opinion | No peace without China --- American chickens coming home to roost in Ukraine