Exclusive Interview | (Full-length edition available) US has become plutocracy: expert
The U.S. has become a plutocracy, at a competitive disadvantage when it has to deal with a meritocracy in China, an expert in Asian studies said.
Kishore Mahbubani, former Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations and currently a Distinguished Fellow of the Asian Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, said in an exclusive interview with DotDotNews.
Mahbubani said it is an indisputable fact that the competition between China and the United States has accelerated in recent years, but he didn't think a direct military war is likely to occur between the two superpowers. The only exception, he added, lies in the Taiwan question.
Mahbubani pointed out that Taiwan's authorities have failed to educate the local people on how dangerous their situation can be, which is "very sad." In this geopolitical game of chess, he said, Taiwan is just a pawn that can be easily sacrificed.
According to the professor, the U.S. politicians are only using Taiwan for their political grandstanding, and the Taiwanese people are blinded by the authorities and do something that suits the U.S., which is nothing different from shooting themselves in the foot. He reminded the people of Taiwan to be conscious of this and "ensure that they don't get caught in the crossfire in any way."
CHINA TO SURPASS US IN 20 YEARS
Among the many fronts of competition between China and the United States, the economy remains the most important one, said Mahbubani. He believes that even though China's economy is growing faster than the U.S., the U.S. economy is still performing considerably strongly.
For China to surpass the U.S. in terms of GNP, it will have to continue to grow at 4 to 5 percent a year, he said. "And I believe China actually can."
He predicted that in the next decade or two, China will become the largest economy, the U.S. economy will be in second place, and India will come third.
Mahbubani continued that the U.S. must seriously assess its containment strategy against China, despite they wouldn't even admit such a policy. A similar containment strategy seems to have worked in the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, but this was because the Soviet Union had little trade with the rest of the world. "But China is different," he said, because "China trades more with the rest of the world than the U.S. does." He said it would be wiser for the U.S. to consider a new different form of engagement policy that takes place within multilateral fora.
Turning to the much-discussed "de-dollarization" issue, Mahbubani said that the dollar will remain the irreplaceable global reserve currency for a long time to come, both in terms of trade and finance. He added that, however, if the U.S. continues to weaponize the US dollar in the next 10 to 20 years, its role and influence will be greatly diminished.
THE US HAS BECOME A PLUTOCRACY
Mahbubani shared his observation that the U.S. congressmen are competing with each other to see who is more anti-China. By chanting anti-China slogans and taking advantage of the rising populism in US society, they are only trying to score higher points for themselves in the political race and pave the way for their career, while ignoring the overall interests of the country and the people, which Mahbubani called "extremely irresponsible."
"Democracy," as American politicians call it, always seems to win public opinion because it has always been a positive word in the Western context. Mahbubani pointed out that the political contest between the U.S. and China is not between "democracy and autocracy" as advocated by the West, but between "plutocracy and meritocracy".
Ma explained that the United States has actually become a plutocracy where policies are made to benefit the top 10 to 20 percent of the population. "That's why the living standards of the bottom 50 percent of Americans have not improved in decades," he added.
Citing figures, Mahbubani said that in 1978, the average CEO in the U.S. earned 30 times more than the average worker, and the figure reached 1,500 by 2021. By contrast, China has completed the world's largest poverty alleviation project, with more than 800 million Chinese people lifted out of absolute poverty.
"I think a plutocracy is therefore at a competitive disadvantage when it has to deal with a meritocracy in China, because in China, the leaders are selected on the basis of their experience and their ability to run cities and so on," he said.
BRI IN THE 'ASIAN CENTURY'
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Asked about his vision for the future of the initiative, Mahbubani said he was "very optimistic."
He said that China is the world's infrastructure superpower and has built "more infrastructure than the rest of the world combined". He believes that more and more countries will want to join the BRI because better infrastructure means higher standards of living and happiness for their residents.
According to Mahbubani, the 21st century is the "Asian century" because "countries around the world are preparing for it, and Asian countries are developing faster than any other countries in the world." The only question here, he says, is whether the "Asian century" will be a century of peace.
"At the end of the day, the most important thing the world needs today is peace, and we should work hard to establish peace in Asia also," he said.
Talking about Hong Kong's unique role as an externally-oriented economy, he said that the SAR still retains autonomy in many aspects and has its own multi-faceted advantages, saying that this free space is the best gateway for foreign investors to enter the Chinese mainland market.
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