Super Cities №89 — The View From Beijing (and an American Response)

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Beijing is taking the long view

“The discussion was franker than any I have participated in during the 25 years I have been visiting China.”


America has been fighting a global war since 2001. In addition to the devastating human toll, this war — with no end in sight, and no policy mechanism to reach that inevitable outcome — will ultimately cost trillions of dollars.

Since 2001, China’s GDP has increased from $1.3 trillion to $11.19 trillion.

The most important signal, though, is not GDP. It is perception.

In the view of many, America’s confidence is waning, and China’s confidence is growing.

In the linked article, Martin Wolf tracks China’s seven propositions for its continued rise:

  • Central party rule
  • Western models don’t work
  • Regional before global
  • Deal with US maneuvering
  • Deal with US trade
  • Survival, above all else
  • Win early

As China becomes much more assertive in its approach to technology, governance, and security, the United States is simultaneously withdrawing from its strategic positions of strength.

At present, these two trends, based on tension, define the US-China relationship.

However, I’m optimistic about America’s future and the potential for a balanced US-China relationship.

To start, Chinese officials know that, for the foreseeable future, they cannot dictate to the world or reach global parity with the United States; from city smog to country-to-city mobility, Chinese problems at home are too significant, and its future is too delicate.

But Americans need to up their game.

One of the problems with perpetual war is that it creates overly concentrated brainpower and expertise — in this case, my generation’s best and brightest have been navigating The Maze of the Middle East. China has been de-prioritized.

Sixty-eight hundred miles away, my Chinese counterparts have been studying, analyzing, and successfully navigating The Maze of America.

The result is that the delta between what Americans know about China and what Chinese know about America has been growing for decades.

This asymmetry is concerning.

American business leaders are sacrificing themselves at the altar of China’s market. A barely-functional Washington backed out of a trade relationship that would have firmly established American interests in the Pacific for a generation. America’s public and private sectors are losing the cybersecurity and industrial espionage wars.

To American business, policy, and innovation leaders: You have time to get back in the game.

But much less than you may imagine.

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