Ways that China is surpassing the US

Link post

[Edit: Changed the post ti­tle from the origi­nal ar­ti­cle ti­tle to some­thing more mean­ingful.]

I came across this ar­ti­cle to­day, and I have to agree with it strongly based on my own re­cent trip to China. The up­date it trig­gered for me is the re­al­iza­tion that China is gen­uinely do­ing bet­ter than the US on many fronts, most im­por­tantly on gov­er­nance. How/​why did that hap­pen? Did any­one or any poli­ti­cal the­ory pre­dict this ahead of time? (In case it’s not clear, this is not meant to be a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. I’m sur­prised and con­fused and am won­der­ing if some­one or some the­ory can offer an ex­pla­na­tion.) What does it im­ply for things like AI gov­er­nance and global co­or­di­na­tion on x-risks?

Below I’ll quote two sec­tions that sum­ma­rize most of the ar­ti­cle. Click the link above for the full text.

China is chang­ing in a deep and visceral way, and it is chang­ing fast , in a way that is al­most in­com­pre­hen­si­ble with­out see­ing it in per­son. In con­trast to Amer­ica’s stag­na­tion, China’s cul­ture, self-con­cept, and morale are be­ing trans­formed at a rapid pace—mostly for the bet­ter.

For Amer­i­cans, this trans­for­ma­tion to­wards com­pe­tence and pros­per­ity should be the more wor­ry­ing thing about China. We aren’t well-co­or­di­nated with China, and it is start­ing to sur­pass the U.S. in im­por­tant ways. If we ig­nore this point by fo­cus­ing only on the moral nega­tives, of which there are many, we risk un­der­rat­ing the com­pe­ti­tion un­til it’s too late, or failing to re­flect on the im­por­tance of solv­ing our own mount­ing prob­lems of gov­er­nance.

More op­ti­misti­cally, we should study Chi­nese de­vel­op­ment as a pos­i­tive ex­am­ple of how to do bet­ter on the things that Amer­ica has been fum­bling re­cently: in­fras­truc­ture, growth, in­dus­trial policy, and pos­i­tive trans­for­ma­tion of ev­ery­day life. Amer­ica has been a shin­ing bea­con of this kind of de­vel­op­ment in the past, and can be again, if we’re will­ing to look closer at what China does right.


If I’m be­ing hon­est, China’s suc­cess scares me. There is some­thing deeply dis­con­cert­ing about watch­ing China sur­pass Amer­ica in the ways it is. China is trans­form­ing fish­ing villages into ma­jor in­dus­trial cities, while we fail to build high-speed rail or new hous­ing. How are we go­ing to catch up?

Is it re­ally as bad as it seems? I un­der­stand the in­stinct to avoid the topic, dis­be­lieve it, and play it down. I’ve even had the in­stinct to stay quiet about China’s progress my­self: I worry that no one will ap­pre­ci­ate the re­minder. Per­haps this is why we’ve heard so lit­tle about this as­pect of things.

But if we’re go­ing to build a good so­ciety in Amer­ica, we have to face these things head-on.

In the U.S., we face an on­go­ing crisis of gov­er­nance. We need to un­der­stand our own failures, and we need to grap­ple with un­ex­pected demon­stra­tions of suc­cess—even if they come from non-liberal so­cieties.

China’s suc­cess challenges our im­plicit ide­ol­ogy and deep-seated as­sump­tions about gov­er­nance. It needs to be stud­ied—not just to bring about bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion, but be­cause in its ac­com­plish­ments, we may find im­por­tant truths needed to bring about Amer­i­can re­vi­tal­iza­tion.