The Sunday News
I have just finished reading Kishore Mahbubani’s painful but important 2020 book: Has China Won? True, China and the USA are embroiled in a race for global primacy that will change the world forever, hopefully that would bring about a world that is much friendlier to human diversity.
A world might just emerge from this race that respects human and civilizational differences of the entire planet.
Co-operation between powers of the world might be the answer to the planetary question than posturing and playing prefect of the world that super powers are tempted to do.
Perhaps Mahbubani is the best scholar in the present to provoke and lead the debate about a post-USA and post-China world.
He is a leading researcher at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, after spending 30 years as a diplomat and 15 years in academia. Ten years of his diplomatic career were spent in the post of Singapore’s ambassador to the United Nations. He is a solid Asian mind and thinker of the Global South that very easily stupefies the angry excitability of the spokespersons of Americanism such as Francis Fukuyama, Bernard Lewis and the late Samuel Huntington.
This trio has been incapable of thinking the unthinkable about the USA and the West; they have been unable to imagine a world without America and the West in global primacy. China’s rise to the economic leadership of the world has been a kind of shock and wakeup call for America, the West and their prophets amongst journalists and scholars.
Thinking the unthinkable and anticipating the impossible is a talent that present day world systems analysts will have to cultivate or sink to irrelevance. After the death of Immanuel Wallerstein, not so long ago, Mahbubani might be one of the most compelling world systems analysts alive today.
Thinking with Mahbubani:
What is happening?
The USA was able to easily elbow away the Soviet Union in the struggle for global primacy because the soviets remained economically weak. China has managed to overtake the USA as the world’s leading economy, and that is bad news for the USA and the West.
The USA is gravely mistaken to take the rivalry with China as the same with its enmity with the Soviet Union; China is certainly another rival, a monstrous one.
This is a decorated rival with a history of being a titanic civilisation and a wealth of philosophy and political practice.
It would be far more important, this time around, for the USA to prioritise the welfare of its 330 million citizens and invest in their public health and education than in international propaganda and arms of war. In the Cold War it made sense for America to spend on arms and force poor soviets to bankrupt themselves in the arms race.
This trick might not work with China that is clearly not publicly joining a senseless arms race. Like the Kung Fu legends that they are the Chinese are up for the challenge, but are walking and working like they are not interested in it.
It is notable that the USA won the Cold War with the support of NATO partners and other allies from outside the West that included China, Pakistan, Indonesia and our own Egypt.
These allies had freedom of the American economy and generous aid from the USA. Under Donald Trump and his America first mantra these allies were antagonised and China picked up some of them as its new friends. It has not been US military might but the US Dollar that has been making and keeping friends for North America.
With the US Dollar and its new economic might, China has clearly created and kept more allies, ironically, than the USA. Yes, China is US Dollar rich and used the currency to literally get the love of countries in the world by supporting their dreams.
For some time the USA enjoyed the soft power and good reputation of being a powerful and exemplary democracy.
That has been lost to carelessness in the way the USA has invaded other countries and dramatised tyranny at home, especially under the Trump administration that spectacularly exposed the darker side of the USA.
China has appeared more rational and reasonable than temperamental and bullish America. China has been so cool headed and calm under any provocation and even open insult, just as the karatekas that they are, they fight without being angry.
The Chinese, after all, are the children of the Master of The Art of War, the Sun Tsu. The Tsu preached knowing yourself and knowing your enemy so that you win. It seems that China knows the USA more than the USA knows and understands China. From that bad situation to worse is that over the decades, since 1945, the USA has created for itself a very bad name in the world, Trump only worked to make matters far worse.
The USA tends to look down upon China as defined by the Chinese Communist Party when China has grown to a Chinese Civilisational Party; it has a lot more than communism to defend.
None other than the greatest strategist of Americanism, Henry Kissinger, in his Book: On China, remarked that the Chinese strategy of global dominance is guided by the Chinese game, Wei Qei, not western Chess that guides the American game.
In western chess the goal is finding the fastest way of capturing the King, whereas in Wei Qei, the goal is to accumulate assets and power and in the long-term conquer and dominate. The race between China and the USA is a true game of Chess versus Wei Qei, one can argue. Where the USA continues to amass weapons of war openly, China has amassed wealth and gotten all countries of the world including the USA to be heavily indebted to it, and so China rules.
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from KwaMabusabesala Village in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga Province, in South Africa. Contacts: [email protected]