We’re now in the thick of a struggle with China. A struggle for economic and technological primacy.
China has proved itself a formidable opponent. One that challenges us to the core, which is good for us.
Competition, with all its problems, has the advantage of pushing us to perform as best we can.
Unless we go to war, the likelihood is that this contest will last a long time.
Russia, for all its chest thumping in Ukraine and elsewhere, is not really part of this contest. They would like to be but, until they rid themselves of Putin and choose a different kind of leadership, they will remain a second level participant.
But back to China and the US.
This contest asks of us, which is the better social organization that can elicit the greater productivity from its citizens?
We both are presently thinking the social organization we presently have is the best one. But that is now in question.
China has shown a great deal of inventiveness and capacity for hard work. They acknowledged they needed to open themselves to other nations to promote internal prosperity, then did so and leaped forward in a spectacular manner in just 40 years. They have been called the factory of the world. Mastering the new information, they put it in their service.
Their social organization managed the transition effectively.
But will that same organization be able to address the complexities of the new environment they have created?
Recently we’ve seen how the political leadership, in the interest of ‘managed prosperity’, has inserted themselves in the governing of businesses and large conglomerates. My bet is that this approach will backfire and reduce the efficiency needed to compete.
The impulse of government to meddle in the running of successful businesses is ever present. We see attempts to do so here in America too, but in the end prove consistently detrimental to the creative and competitive impulse.
It will take time for the Chinese to acknowledge that flaw. The reason is their limits on free speech and the consequent drowning of critical voices.
We, in contrast, enjoy free speech, but are falling short on the discipline that must go with it.
How come, for instance, we’ve allowed ourselves to fall behind in the production of advanced semiconductors and so become dependent on a factory in Taiwan, which lies so close to China?
It is inexcusable. And it didn’t happen overnight.
Too many voices in America? No. We need them all. But we must be diligent in the setting of priorities and that’s a task for enlightened leadership.
Creativity is intimately connected to free speech. We need them both for ideas to fully flourish.
And while China continues to steal technology from the West, it is astonishing to see how they will not acknowledge the connection that makes it happen.
They know they have been enriched by trade with the West but are not willing to try and imitate the social and economic conditions that lead to such products, preferring to foist on the Chinese people a controlling system designed to preserve the elite’s political power at all costs.
To see China today, is to see a nation taking advantage of material advances but shrinking from their responsibility to mature politically.
The problem with immature political systems is that they turn violent on a whim. As is the sad case of Putin and Ukraine today.
Both China and Russia stand as examples of leadership manipulating their citizens.
As such they both should be subjects of study for all us here in America, since we also have witnessed recent serious attempts to manipulate us into believing false ideas.
Such study will show us how much we have got right and how much that can go wrong if we’re not on our game.
I would not want to live in any other political system than the one we have, but there is no doubt that we are a work in progress.
Democracy is a fragile affair, easily undermined by those whose main interest is their personal power.
Vigilance should be constant, and the journey worth every fight.
A quick aside:
On my way back home the other day, I saw a man standing at a corner holding an umbrella. I went up to him and said, ‘You’re making a statement with that umbrella.’
‘I am?’ he replied, amused.
‘Yes. You’re telling us that men also have sensitive skins.’
Oscar Valdes, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple an google podcasts