In a guest editorial last Thursday in the New York Times (“Why China’s Political Model is Superior”), a Mr. Eric X. Li declared the American Republic dead, American democracy “a rule by demagogy” producing “paralysis and insolvency,” and extolled China’s “largest one-party state” as the superior model achieving “larger national ends” leading to “the second-largest economy in the world.”
Mr. Li asserted that the U.S. “seems incapable of becoming less democratic even when it’s survival may depend on it.”
President Obama reached the same conclusion early in his term, bowing to the Chinese Communist leader while openly and enviously admiring the ability of the Chinese ruling class to get things done by dictate. Obama’s numerous “czars,” executive orders and “recess appointments” since then must be seen by the Chinese leaders as the sincerest form of flattery.
It’s an old story. History is full of authoritarian ruling elites justifying their claim to know better how to spend the money you earn and to know better how to live your life than you do.
Li leaves out the fact that China’s recent economic growth is the product of the Chinese Communist Party junking the economic model of communism and allowing people to get rich while keeping communist political repression in place. You want to see “income inequality” go to China.
The “second-largest economy in the world” is a distant second. Comparing apples to apples, the average worker in China makes $4,300 a year; the average worker in the U.S. makes $45,000 a year. With over 1.3 billion people, China has a GDP of $5.8 trillion; with 311 million people, the U.S. has a GDP of $15.8 trillion.
The Chinese economy is growing because the Chinese are superior copycats. Much of China’s economic growth is the result of a pirate mentality that regards the innovation of America as a candy store open for the Chinese to plunder.
There is no advance in technology, manufacturing, medicine, communication, or warfare in China that has not been bought or stolen from the West. I wonder if the Chinese written character for “copycat” is the same as for “copyright.” The Chinese have not only copied Apple Inc. products; they have fake Apple stores!
In America, freedom works. Innovation and creativity have made the U.S. exceptional from the beginning not because we’re “superior” but because we are free. Where are the Chinese equivalents of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or the numerous immigrants to America who could not have created the Internet revolution in their home countries?
The Chinese economy, made possible by finally growing enough food for its expanding population, in fact owes a debt to American freedom and innovation.
Norman Borlaug was a child of the Depression growing up dirt poor on the family farm in Iowa. He attended a one-room school, flunked his university entrance exam, but ultimately received the Nobel Peace Prize (when that prize meant something) as the Father of the Green Revolution.
Borlaug’s work in plant breeding and agronomics boosted wheat production around the world, saving literally millions of people from starvation. Using Borlaug’s wheat varieties, from 1950 to 1992 the yield per acre shot up 150 percent. In India before 1963, wheat fields yielded about 800 pounds per acre per harvest. By 1968, the Borlaug wheat had increased wheat yields to 6,000 pounds per acre.
Now known as the “Three Terrible Years” in China, 1959-61 saw Mao’s China strip farmers of their land and set up farming communes of up to 25,000 workers. Food production plunged, and famine resulted. Chinese sources estimate the famine produced by communism killed between 14 and 26 million Chinese and lowered the number of births by up to 34 million over those three years.
Only the restoration of family farms and village-based cooperatives, coupled with Borlaug’s wheat seeds, saved China. China’s own communist history proves that it’s freedom and the innovation that flows from freedom that is exceptional, that is “superior.”
Li asserts that the “largest one-party state” in the world is a “superior political model.”
As an example, Li cites the 1989 massacre at Tiannaman Square as producing “stability” necessary for economic growth. In reality, continued communist political repression has led to rebellions large and small all over China. We hear about the subjugation of Tibet and about Chinese imperialism against the Uighers in Xinjiang province, but hundreds of other violent riots and rebellions occur every year in China.
The Chinese have a taste of economic freedom. They know that the Chinese who live in even freer Hong Kong are wealthier because of that freedom. The demand for political freedom cannot be suppressed for long in the “world’s largest one-party state.”
In a revealing paragraph, Li contrasts the philosophical underpinnings of our two countries.
“The fundamental difference between Washington’s view and Beijing’s view is whether political rights are considered God-given and therefore absolute or whether they should be seen as privileges to be negotiated based on the needs and conditions of the nation.”
Just so. America will remain exceptional, the No. 1 economy and the “last, best hope of mankind” only if our God-given rights remain non-negotiable.