Public opinion in the NATO Alliance believes that within a single decade, China will be more powerful than a “politically broken” United States
By Nazarul Islam
A recent poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations has revealed that public opinion within the NATO Alliance has overwhelmingly believed—that within a single decade, China will be more powerful than a “politically broken” United States. Even more alarming is the message that was conveyed: similar majorities believe their countries should remain neutral, in any potential conflicts between the U.S. and China or Russia.
Anyone having doubts that America’s enemies have reached similar conclusions regarding U.S. decline—need look no further than the remarkable first meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, in Anchorage. Yang gave Blinken a lengthy and severe “tongue-lashing” in which he rejected all U.S. criticisms of China.
Touting the superiority of “Chinese-style democracy,” Yang reminded Blinken — accurately — that “many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.”
Accordingly, there is virtue in seeking greater understanding regarding the phenomena of decline by turning to historians who can offer a depth and balance of insight far superior to the slanging matches that pass for political “dialogue” today.
In 2012 Scottish historian Niall Ferguson, had produced a volume that has held up well in the intervening years: “The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die.”
Ferguson’s analysis goes beyond the conventionally cited characteristics of decline — slowing growth, crushing debt, increasing inequality, aging populations and antisocial behaviors — to focus on the four institutional pillars that, in his view, define the American way of life: representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society. He persuasively asserts that these institutions, and not geographical or climatic advantages, enabled the historically unparalleled rise and dominance of Western civilization over the past five centuries.
And beyond this reality, is another terse message: that their accelerating deterioration explains the decline of the West nowhere more graphically than in the United States.
Again, the historian Ferguson has convincingly demonstrated how America’s representative government has broken the contract between the generations by heaping IOUs on the next generation of present day children and grandchildren; free markets have been increasingly crippled by overly complex regulation and debilitating economic and political processes; the rule of law has become the rule of lawyers.
Obviously the civil society in the US has been gravely undermined by gradually ceding the protection of individuality and liberty to government control.
Another, cold and inescapable reality: While the economies of the U.S. and of Europe and the real incomes of their working classes have stagnated, the Chinese economy has consistently delivered robust double-digit growth.
And now, let’s explore the bottom line – life for the average Chinese family has dramatically improved over recent decades and because of that, the Chinese who have no experience of democracy may readily acquiesce to the shortcomings of their unapologetically authoritarian government.
Additionally, evidence suggests that as a people they continue to view the world through a strongly nationalistic and patriotic lens.
In contrast, life for the average U.S. family has not significantly improved and accordingly, Americans are less inclined to tolerate the increasingly glaring deficiencies they see in their own government and society.
Decline is a relative term, but clearly by a preponderance of measures America is declining while China is ascending. The great question is whether this decline is terminal, or whether the American people — as they have done in past times of trouble — can rise to the occasion, break free of our current malaise, and deliver a national act of regeneration that will reanimate that spirit and pride which Americans have manifested throughout our history.
About the Author
The Bengal-born writer Nazarul Islam is a senior educationist based in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.