On a walk last night and I was thinking about what I know about the future that I feel supremely confident about, and the answer that popped into my head is China's coming difficulties. Not that I wish it any harm - anything but. It's just that the hubris and the nationalism and the hunger for all things - all completely natural in a rise of this caliber - are combining to create antipathy abroad and extreme anxiousness at home. The tough times that follow will force China into a scary and dangerous democratization. It happens to the best; it happens to the rest. There is no Chinese "alternative."
Neat pair of NYT stories to illustrate.
First one (above) is about an Asian art exhibit. The paper version had the title that caught my eye:
East is East; West is Omnivorous
Exhibit covers the time period of Europe's early global expansion and the apocalyptic views it generated among the conquered in Asia.
The only thing I thought when I saw the title was, now the worm has turned. Now the West is West and the East is omnivorous. And that hunger for all things creates the growing hatred of China.
This has a been a prediction of mine since New Map: China becomes the face of globalization and thus the target of anti-globalization anger in all forms. I've been saying this in Beijing for almost a decade, and I don't get many takers. "We are different," I am told.
But they're not. The hunger is unbelievable (China adds ANOTHER 300m to its US-sized middle class in the next 6-7 years) and the hate is real and growing.
See Shambaugh's excellent NYT op-ed on global attitudes toward the Chinese: all downhill.
Meanwhile, the US is in its hibernation phase, and Obama is the perfect hibernation president. I'm not bitching. We asked and he delivers.
But the regeneration proceeds.
China, however, tops out on all sorts of things - signalling tougher times ahead. And this is not a system built for tough times. You may think authoritarianism is, but it ain't. No ability to "throw the bums out" = building hatred within the system (frustration that finds no relief).
Nothing I describe here happens tomorrow, and it's easy to dismiss.
But I know this with a certainty: Right now China is perceived to be passing the US and we find that scary. But between now and 2030 this all gets reversed in a big way, and that will be far more scary for both sides.
This is why we cannot abide the fear mongers on both sides; they are too dangerous for the world's future.
The outreach must be pursued and eventual partnership revealed - not out of our fear for them but to modulate what will become China's great fears of all things during the difficult times ahead.