China Ascendant

A Post book review:

“When China Rules the World” [is] a compelling and thought-provoking analysis of global trends that defies the common Western assumption that, to be fully modern, a nation must become democratic, financially transparent and legally accountable. Jacques argues persuasively that China is on track to take over as the world’s dominant power and that, when it does, it will make the rules, on its own terms, with little regard for what came before.

China is growing at a tremendous rate. Yet it refuses to follow the Western model of establishing genuine elections, an independent judiciary and a freely convertible currency. In fact, its restrictive currency rules have made China the world’s leading creditor, while the United States sinks ever deeper into debt. And while the United States sacrifices the lives of its soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Chinese make money in both countries without losing a drop of blood.

Yes!  The world has emulated Western policies mainly because those nations were high status, not because their style of law or government was obviously more efficient.  Chinese styles are likely similarly efficient, and if China becomes higher status, the world will emulate it instead. The book reviewer still can’t quite believe:

As a journalist who lived and breathed China for years, I felt sure that the Communist Party, following its loss of credibility at Tiananmen, would fall to ashes. During the boom of the 1990s, I knew that economic modernization would force Chinese institutions to become accountable and democratic. I was wrong again and again. My assumptions were out of date.  Still, one can’t help wondering if China’s trajectory, as unwavering as it may look now, may fizzle. Take, for instance, China’s inability to accept or integrate outsiders — Jacques calls it “the Middle Kingdom mentality.”

Westerners pride themselves on their attitudes on diversity, and yes those may have some advantages.  But if so they are weak advantages, easily overwhelmed by other large Western disadvantages.  If China continues to outgrow the West, it will likely be because they do a few things very right, as did the West before. If China comes to dominate the world, it will likely then also overestimate how many of its peculiar styles give big efficiency gains.

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