photo (c) Howard French – http://www.howardwfrench.net/
For the past few years, the U.S. mediascape has been filled with equal measures of fear and celebration of China as it ascends to its presumptive position as the Next Great Superpower. It’s huge, and its people are workaholics ideally suited (socially conditioned) to an authoritarian form of state capitalism that will kick all kinds of ass over our soft freedom-lovin’ version, goes the line, and it will take the U.S. decades to pay off “our” debt to China. Not long ago, Time magazine ran a cover story entitled “Five Things the U.S. Can Learn from the Chinese.” Some prominent journalists, like Thomas Friedman, have ballyhooed China’s ability, via an authoritarian alternative to U.S. gridlock, to enact broad environmental and energy policies on a scale unfathomable in the U.S.
I started thinking about all of the “China is the Next Superpower” rhetoric and what holes might logically be punched in it. I recalled how many people were predicting Japan’s rise to global dominance not so long ago. I also wondered about just how propagandistic coverage of China is — what purpose the fear of Big Bad China would serve. It would be a good stick with which to frighten U.S. citizens and help drive down living standards and wages in the interest of remaining “competitive,” wouldn’t it?
And lo, thanks to various online resources, I found some reasoned and informed critiques of this narrative that may give comfort to those who fear China’s foregone rise to global dominance, at the same time that I found troubling news of how “China” (it’s decision-making and agenda-setting apparatus; not its people) is adapting to global economic realities in part through massive investment in Africa.