Sunday 26th June 2022

Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy


Published on : 9 March, 2022 12:07 pm

Bhoj Kumar DhamalKathmandu: Kishore Mahbubani, a diplomat and scholar, in his book, Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy, unveils the strategic faults and concerns on the U.S.A and Chinese diplomacy. He highlights on the risk of imbalanced relationships, ups and downs, and biases of the two superpowers. In the changing global geopolitical situation, balancing the relations of these nations from foe to allies seems less possible due to shrewdness and susceptive behavior to each other.

Mahbubani argues the US is rigid with its idiosyncrasies whereas China is welcoming and flexible. He examines the deep-rooted pitfalls of both nations. 

As he writes, he is explicitly conscious about their relations but is a little hesitant about the smart strategic dealing between them. The former sees China as expansionist and a threat to American hegemony, whereas the other is trying to establish itself as the global partner in development and friendship with global governance. Their relations have been trigged by misconception, disbelief, and strategic offense believes Mahbubani.  

 He argues both of the nations fail to set their fraternal priorities because of their dogmas especially, the US. He further takes the stand that the US has done a great geopolitical mistake contesting China without any long-term strategy and assessment of China’s strength. However, he illustrates China has done the mistake as well isolating America’s business community. He infers the US inability to set strategic goals to contest country like China, and this dispute, who knows may continue for decades.  

His appraisal in the book about the Chinese leading system indicates positive traces and adjustable character of Chinese leaders. “Chinese leaders are aware of the huge challenge they face in trying to manage this transition away from a fully authoritarian system. They are researching, thinking, and preparing to change, at a time they feel is right.” Their dynamism to political transformation in the Chinese system of governance and their ability to manage it skillfully shows the limelight on how the Chinese enabled themselves to preserve superpower, overshadowing the US in a few decades. The central ruling system in China has been a boon to China whereas inclusiveness and multiculturalism is a gradual slacker in the US policy.

The book centers around the key message “Chinese leaders want to rejuvenate

Chinese civilization, they have no missionary impulse to take over the world and make everyone Chinese.” The Chinese believe, “Only Chinese can be Chinese in culture, values, and aesthetics.” Innovation and dynamism have been the other trademarks of Chinese society at present. The strength of the Chinese leadership is that they do not influence others to change their ideology and political practices and do not expect others to become like them whereas the US has different story. 

The conclusion of the book, “A major geopolitical contest between America and China is both inevitable and avoidable” puzzles and worries the readers at the same time. If it is inevitable how can it be avoided! And, at the same time, if it is avoidable why is it inevitable! Though slightly cynical towards the US, he does not forget to describe its best elements it offers to the world. Meanwhile, he is optimistic at the end and says both of the nations could marshal the forces of reasons to develop an understanding of the real national interest of both America and China, and concludes that there should be no fundamental contradiction between the two powers.

 If they are to lessen the confrontation they should set the priority of the well-being of their fellow citizens without contesting. The world order would be much better if they see themselves as the most powerful countries in the globe rather than posing existential threat to each other. There seems unending resistance between them but the world desperately needs the superpowers to assist each other for undisturbed humanity. But “The biggest obstacle in improving the relations between America and China is a powerful invisible mental construct that has been deeply embedded in American minds: the assumption of virtue.”

Note : Mr. Dhamala, a freelancer, is keen in understanding international relations.

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