China Daily, China’s English language newspaper, is not the most objective of sources, but a pairing of recent headlines on October 3 tells much. “Xi [China’s President] pledges to boost ties with Indonesia. Countries ink deals on fisheries, defense as well as aerospace,” was next to “Obama cancels trip to Malaysia. U.S. President trims stop next week [to the APEC meeting] due to his government’s shut down.” China moves forward while the U.S. flounders.
I am now in China giving lectures at two of its universities. I’ve been coming here for nearly three decades and have witnessed a transformation of epic proportions. From an impoverished, centrally planned economy, China has become a major economic player with an enviable economic growth record. In the past 35 years China has made economic reforms that have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, more than Europe and the United States had with 100 years of foreign aid to the less developed world.
Major problems remain in China, however: human rights fall well short of Western standards, the government is far from transparent and corruption is commonplace, pollution is terrible, and a real-estate bubble is likely to pop causing a major disruption. Despite these transitional growing pains, China is on the right path. The standard of living has soared and tax rates are low. Human rights have improved enormously over recent years and there is real optimism among its people. “The Chinese Dream” is a major topic of discussion in the media as China comes to grips with its new powerful role on the world stage.
I cannot also help but think that the United States is on the wrong path. The White House is focused on and seemingly obsessed with the redistribution of income. The government is sinking in a swamp of national debt, wasting resources on futile wars and unprofitable enterprises. The government now widely spies on its citizens, infringing on their privacy. The United States seems to be heading in the direction of the old China while China heads in the direction of the old United States.