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George Borjas Has a Weblog

Thomas P.M. Barnett Is Unhappy with the Fearmongers

He writes, apropos of those who seek to embroil the United States in a new Cold War with China:

An overwrought, ideologically myopic argument (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog): "THE CHINA CHALLENGE: A Shining Model of Wealth Without Liberty," By James Mann.... An overwrought argument from Mann, who specializes in them. China is no "new" model or threat. It follows the model of Singapore, and before that South Korea, and before that Japan: a single-party state that bases almost all of its legitimacy on rising income and development through export-driven growth. It is a self-liquidating model: eventually the society wants more political freedom to go with that wealth. China's just so fricking huge and so poor that this process isn't going fast enough for Mann--hence the inevitable "threat."

Mann recognizes neither those past examples nor the significant economic and personal freedoms unleashed inside China over the past quarter century. His Z not having been reached fast enough, he discounts all movement from A since the bizarre depths of Mao's cultural revolution, which is no more distant politically than our Vietnam.... As for our take on it, we should logically welcome any so-called model that promotes external economic connectivity, because we know where that goes historically (i.e., where Japan and South Korea finally ended up: creating political freedoms that match their system's potential--something that took us a while to achieve as well).... China's path is but a steppingstone to outcomes we naturally seek. I mean, crawling might be described as an alternative to walking, but only until you're able to walk, then it suddenly seems like a passing phase.

China's "model"... is about transforming a hugely rural, impoverished, disconnected society (one-sixth of humanity) into an urban, consumeristic, connected one. Once achieved, and China is nowhere near that at this time, with well over half its population still living in very Gap-like conditions, then its model self-liquidates that all before it. China's future leaders know this, so do our smart observers. Mann ain't one of the them...