This is a great article, and I love the general originality + iconoclasm of your work.

As someone who has traveled to China a ton over the past 12 years and has seen a lot change, think you left out several important things.

1. Demographics. Others have remarked on it, so I won't elaborate further.

2. The financial optics of authoritarianism. In financial terms, authoritarianism equals forced loans to state owned enterprises, equals tons of undeclared bad debt. We have no idea how big this is. I suspect you didn't address it because you see similar pathologies in the US, like endless borrowing for foreign wars or paying teachers' unions not to work.

But the difference is that here, we know roughly how big and how prevalent those things are. In China, nobody knows how much money has vanished into elite families over the past 25 years. Just because China skeptics have talked about it for a long time, doesn't make it wrong. The USSR also had extremely overstated GDP because, in their noncapitalistic way, they also understated bad debts.

3. Covid deaths. I don't know any Chinese person who takes China's Covid deaths at face value, and there's mountains of anecdotal data suggesting that their numbers were vastly understated. I suspect that for legacy genetic reasons they still held up well, but accepting their figures at face value is a credulous bridge too far.

4. Re achievement tests, Beijing and Shanghai are the two richest cities in China by far. Zhejiang and Jiangsu are the two provinces surrounding Shanghai. They're two of China's richest provinces. Wildly non-representative sample.

I say all this as someone who, after seeing the US's response to Covid in particular (the nursing homes; the quasi-strike by teachers' unions; the hospitals' financial incentives to grossly overstate covid deaths; the willful ignorance of CA/NY/etc governors and electorates; the total federal failure to do anything besides pay people to not work; ...) genuinely wonders WTF is worth saving about the US system. After all, even if China had lots of corruption with their railway system, at the end of the day they still have a world-class, high-functioning rail system. What does the US get for its government spending? In non-entitlement cases, it's shockingly little, and the main US entitlement (Medicare) has arguably destroyed rational pricing across the US medical system.

And practically speaking, in the US we have even less ability to fire civil servants who screw up than China does.

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The one place where U.S. may still have an advantage is GDP per capita. I think China will hit a similar ceiling as Japan. The base population is intelligent, but it's not as attractive for the top 0.0001% as somewhere like New York / SF or even Singapore.

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I'm a bit more anxious than you are about the rise of China. Five or six years ago I imagined that a world with China as dominant power would be a live and let live affair. You want to be a social democracy? You want to genocide a minority group? China doesn't judge, it'll still trade with you and leave you alone. Frankly, this isn't the worst world order I could imagine.

The combination of increased totalitarianism in China and the assertion, via the Hong Kong security law, that they can police speech outside of China makes me much more nervous. It's not hard to imagine China using economic power or threat of military force to censor dissidents in other countries. Also, while it's hard for me to imagine China just going around trying to conquer other countries like Alexander the Great, I can imagine something more like America or even the British empire, in which "defending commercial interests" leads to meddling and war.

For the record, I like China culturally and I don't want a trade war or real war or anything. I want everyone in the world to prosper and necessarily that outcome would make China a powerful country. I'm just worried.

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How about their demographic crisis? In the next 15-30 years, their working-age population is going to drop drastically while senior citizens will make up a third of their population - with the requisite spending on social security, healthcare, and elderly care. And this was entirely self-inflicted due to the One Child Policy, which totally undermines the CCP's alleged "competence." The problem with the West is not that it underrates China but that it overrates it. Their economy is like a Jenga tower built on a stack of sand, and it's far more likely that they're going to start declining before taking over Asia. This makes them more dangerous, not less - they know they'll have to act soon to achieve long-term geopolitical goals like conquering Taiwan before demographic decline makes it impossible.

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Asians were harmed by slow vaccine regulations in the past. Faulty products go to Asia.

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Great article and I can't believe that I am only discovering your content now. I am Chinese American myself, and largely share the same opinion as you and Steve Hsu. How would you respond to the offensive realist perspective that eventually, China will have a more aggressive foreign policy?

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“ but not given credit for how well they’ve handled the disease”

-aging badly

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The fundamental analysis being that China is benign or competent is hard to fathom, considering that China is responsible for mass deaths of its own citizens more than any other country in human history, though a combination of incompetence and the ruling class seeking power for its own sake. There is little doubt that China is a totalitarian system that seeks to severely restrict the freedom of its subjects, and for all the problems of Liberal democracy its still far preferable than being under a Chinese system. Saying that China is benign is also very strange when looking at the aggression and coercion China has exhibited in annexing distinct nations and ethnic groups in Asia, it's outright admission of wanting to annex the independent nation of Taiwan despite its wishes, and its economic coercion of nations not willing to kowtow to the Chinese system (see the tariffs imposed against Australia because we went against China, for example because we forbade Huawei and other Chinese companies from investing in our infrastructure out of national security concerns). No, I regard the idea that China "just wants to be left alone" and would not pursue a global hegemony in the absence of opposition to be ridiculous. We have to choose between China and the US, an being an Australian, I definitely prefer a global US hegemony to a Chinese one, and it's very strange for a white American to be "rooting for the other side" in this sense. An invasion of Taiwan for example should be opposed not just because of geopolitical concerns, but also for the simple principles of freedom, that we should prevent a sovereign nation from being unwillingly annexed and its people subjugated.

Also, on the economic front, the main question of Chinese economic growth is really one of "why has it taken so long" considering China not only has the largest population in the world but an average of 5 more IQ points than the US. I am also wary of extrapolating China's current growth in the future, because there is the issue of diminishing returns, as it's easy to get to a moderate degree of industrial productivity, but much harder to go from there. China has gotten this far by copying from other countries after the disastrous failure of its communist policies, but I am very sceptical of the idea it can surpass this barrier of simply being the world's manufacturing hub to being the main driver of innovation like the US is. The Chinese economy is subservient to the state, and to oversimplify things, I think real innovation requires a degree of autonomy from the state hierarchy that can only found in the US model of liberal capitalism. China may surpass the US in total economy size, but I don't think it will become the main driver of innovation and technology, as the US currently is.

There is another question to ask: will China's economic primacy translate directly into military pre-eminence? From a historical perspective, Europe for example has always been a militaristic society, unlike China who has historically preferred to use financial rather than military means to pay off potential invaders. It has fared poorly wars against smaller and poorer barbarian tribes on its borders. It's an open question whether these historical precedents would change in the modern era, and if China would be able to best the Western powers in any potential proxy wars or limited conflicts that may arise.

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It seems like the US is losing the hegemony is gained after the collapse of the USSR, and worst yet, China is doing it without nukes or war. Just playing by the rules of trade and economics.

Our political system is freaking out slowly witnessing its power slip, and it can't take it. Especially when it sold its system as the way and reason for its power.

China is also doing it on all fronts. Let's take loans for example. The IMF never gives loans with no minimum or no string attached. It always forces countries to liberalize and open their economies before taking out loans. China doesn't care what your country's political system is or what you do with your economy. It gives you what you need.

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I like this. It's very pragmatic and doesn't try and sell me emotions, and fears of whoever wants to influence me.

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China did not steal the Presidency, erect a Green Zone in DC or overthrow the Republic.

It would also be a bit more credible if our illustrious leaders weren’t on the take from China, but they are...

No. Hard pass, and the author is correct.

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What exact scenario would result in a nuclear war? Seems extremely unlikely to me.

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Great article!!! Eisenhower warned us about the Military/Industrial complex, and they have grown stronger and more devious since that warning. They fostered the idea of American Exceptionalism to build the weapons that allowed us to rule the world through military might. They foster the idea that Russia, China, and Iran are our enemies and just waiting to attack us. Continued Cold War generates lots of cold cash for them. Paranoia insures big Military budgets and a "race" to make ever better weapons that insure our dominance of the world and their guaranteed profits. The American Century is over. Let's take care of our untended backyard and let them tend to theirs. Mutually beneficial trade instead of mutually aggressive rhetoric benefits everyone. The next battlefield is cyber, and we are way behind because we keep spending so much on military hardware instead of education and infrastructure. We have the newest best missiles and equipment, but far out of date infrastructure running on 20 year old equipment and 30 year old technology. Time for a change.

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If you want a different angle of East Asia than you get in most of mainstream outlets.

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