A Chat With the Global Times

Were you aware that Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. credit heralds the fall of Western political systems? No? This Global Times editorial may have the weak  title of “World politics enters uncharted territory,” but it’s hard to miss what the author really wants to say with passages like:

The West can no longer cover up its problems. Large numbers of immigrants have poured into the West; an aging population is bringing escalating pressure on the economy; the rising of emerging powers is challenging Western dominance. However, the West only tries to deal with these problems by highlighting past achievements.

Sub in “China” for “the West” in that one and I think we’d have a publishable American editorial, no? Oh, Global Times, the U.S. has its troubles. So do we all, and it seems that we all like to avoid discussing them by debating the shortcomings of our frenemies.

Western countries are losing the authority of their system. All the major powers have their own problems. The world is losing its leading examples.

Who might take their place, Global Times?

It is hard to predict what this means for China. For the country, the key is to take control of the direction of its reform and avoid serious mistakes.

Well, kudos for the false modesty, Global Times. But what this editorial is building, even if with a number of twisted truths, is an unabashed narrative of Western decline and Chinese ascendance.

From the American press, I learned that the Chinese state is too authoritarian to survive and will soon collapse. Now, from the Chinese press, I learn that “the West” is equally unstable, no doubt soon to implode from sheer arrogance. Oh dear.

Where does this schadenfreude come from? Part of it is in history, and China’s long past of dealing with foreigners who took every opportunity to abuse the country, extract its wealth and demean its people. China’s resurging wealth and stability, then, is a hugely satisfying, and fair ending to a tragic story.

The only problem with that narrative is how blind it can make you to things that don’t fit in neatly. Like China’s own problems, the U.S’ own successes and good ideas. Is it so hard to admit that both nations have huge successes and failures? And both could learn from one another?


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