Making China Great Again

19:24, 16 ianuarie 2018 | Actual | 1867 vizualizări | Nu există niciun comentariu Autor:

As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces.

China has never seen such a moment, when its pursuit of a larger role in the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one. Under the banner of “America First,” President Trump is reducing U.S. commitments abroad. On his third day in office, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a twelve-nation trade deal designed în trecut by the United States as a counterweight to a rising China. To allies in Asia, the withdrawal damaged America’s credibility, iar General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University, celebrated America’s pullout from the trade deal. “We are quiet about it. We want to keep it that way. In fact, he has given China a huge gift. That is the American withdrawal from T.P.P. As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up.” For years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come—perhaps midway through this century—when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of “America First,” that time has come far sooner than expected…

In recent years, China has taken steps to accrue national power by increasing its investments in the types of assets that established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid, overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. It has become one of the leading contributors to the U.N.’s budget and to its peacekeeping force, and it has joined talks to address global problems such as terrorism, piracy, and nuclear proliferation. And China has embarked on history’s most expensive foreign infrastructure plan. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, it is building bridges, railways, and ports in Asia, Africa, and beyond. If the initiative’s cost reaches a trillion dollars, as predicted, it will be more than seven times that of the Marshall Plan, which the U.S. launched in 1947 on rebuilding postwar Europe….. By setting more of the world’s rules, China hopes to “break the Western moral advantage,” the idea of “good and bad” political systems, as Li Ziguo, at the China Institute of International Studies, has said…

By some measures, the U.S. will remain dominant for years to come. It has at least twelve aircraft carriers. China has two. The U.S. has collective defense treaties with more than fifty countries. China has one, with North Korea. And yet the gap has narrowed. In 2000, the U.S. accounted for thirty-one per cent of the global economy, and China accounted for four per cent. Today, the U.S.’s share is twenty-four per cent and China’s fifteen per cent. Already, the world has less confidence in America than we might guess. Last year, the Pew Research Center asked people in thirty-seven countries which leader would do the right thing when it came to world affairs. They chose Xi Jinping over Donald Trump, twenty-eight per cent to twenty-two per cent….

Xi Jinping has the kind of Presidency that Donald Trump might prefer. Last fall, he started his second term with more unobstructed power than any Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, who died in 1997. The Nineteenth Party Congress, held in October, had the spirit of a coronation, in which the Party declared Xi the “core leader,” and effectively allowing him to hold power for life, if he chooses. He enjoys total dominion over the media: when Xi appeares on front pages across the country, his visage was a thing of perfection, airbrushed by Party “news workers” to the sheen of a summer peach. For decades, China avoided directly challenging America’s primacy in the global order.” But Xi, in his speech to the Party Congress, presented China as “a new option for other countries,” calling this alternative to Western democracy the zhongguo fang’an, adică the “Chinese solution.” ….
Until recently, Chinese nationalists were crowded out by a widespread desire to be embraced by the outside world. However, today they see the parallel ascents of Xi and Trump as cause for celebration, and accuse “white lotuses,” their term for Chinese liberals, of intolerance. They reject the political correct slogan in issues of race and worry about Islamic extremism.- (Muslims, say Chinese nationalists,though they make up less than two per cent of China’s population, are the objects of fevered animosity on its Internet.) Last June, Yao Chen, one of China’s most popular actresses, received a barrage of criticism online after she tried to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis, and she was forced to clarify that she was not calling for China to accept refugees…

Yan Xuetong is the dean of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Modern International Relations. At sixty-five, Yan is bouncy and trim, with short silver hair and a roaring laugh. Before I could ask him a question, he said, “I think Trump is America’s Gorbachev.” In China, Mikhail Gorbachev is known and understood as the leader who led an empire to collapse. “The United States will suffer,” he warned, and continued: “American leadership has already dramatically declined in the past ten months. In 1991, when Bush, Sr., launched the war against Iraq, it got thirty-four countries to join the war effort. This time, if Trump launched a war against anyone, I doubt he would get support from even five countries. Even the U.S. Congress is trying to block his ability to start a nuclear war against North Korea. For Chinese leaders, Trump is the biggest strategic opportunity.” …

Jared Kushner and Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, arranged for Trump and Xi to meet at Mar-a-Lago on April 7th, for a cordial get-to-know-you summit. To set the tone, Trump presented two of Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s children, Arabella and Joseph, who sang “Jasmine Flower,” a classic Chinese ballad, and recited poetry. Said someone from Trump’s inner circle who spoke to Chinese officials after Xi’s visit at the Mar-a-Lago: “The Chinese felt like they understood very well how Trump is, they said ‘He’s a paper tiger.’ Because he hasn’t delivered on any of his threats. There’s no wall on Mexico. There’s no repeal of health care.”…

By early November 8th, Trump was arriving for his first trip to Beijing. At the Great Hall of the People, Trump was greeted by a lavish ceremony, with Chinese military bands, the firing of cannons, and throngs of schoolchildren, who waved colored pompoms and yelled, in Chinese, “Uncle Trump!” Government censors struck down critical comments about Trump on social media. Trump and Xi met for several hours and then appeared before the press. “I don’t blame China,” Trump said. “Who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” Some Chinese members of the audience cheered. Xi and Trump took no questions from the press…

In concrete terms, why does it matter if America retreats and China advances? One realm in which the effects are visible is technology, where Chinese and American companies are competing for profits. China bars eleven of the world’s twenty-five most popular Web sites—including Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia—because it fears they will dominate local competitors or amplify dissent. The Chinese government has promoted that approach under a doctrine that it calls “cyber-sovereignty.” In Beijing, I hailed a cab and headed to the northwest corner of the city, where a Chinese company called SenseTime is working on facial recognition, a field at the intersection of science and individual rights. Over there Nobody wears an identification badge, because cameras recognize employees, causing doors to open. I was met by June Jin, the chief marketing officer, who earned an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago and worked at Microsoft, Apple, and Tesla. Jin walked me over and I stepped before a machine, which resembled an A.T.M., that assessed my “happiness” and other attributes. When I stepped in front of it again, it did its calculation of my age to forty-one years old, I was, at the time, forty. In the U.S., where police departments and the F.B.I. are adopting comparable technology, facial recognition has prompted congressional debates about privacy and policing. In Xi Jinping’s China, there are few such debates. In the city of Shenzhen, the local government uses facial recognition to deter jaywalkers. In Beijing, the government uses facial-recognition machines in public rest rooms to stop people from stealing toilet paper; it limits users to sixty centimetres within a nine-minute period. In last November, Eric Schmidt, who chairs the US Defense Innovation Advisory Board, told that reductions in our funding of basic-science research will help China overtake the U.S. in artificial intelligence within a decade. “By 2025, they will be better than us. By 2030, they will dominate the industries of A.I.,” he said….

In Beijing’s political circles, some strategists worry that their leaders risk moving too fast to fill the void created by America’s withdrawal from its global role. I dropped by to see one of the city’s wisest observers of America, Jia Qingguo, the dean of the Department of Diplomacy at Peking University. “The U.S. is not losing leadership. You’re giving it up. You’re not even selling it,” he said. But, global leadership is costly; it means asking your people to contribute to others’ well-being, to send young soldiers to die far from home…

Late one afternoon in November, I went to see a professor in Beijing who has studied the U.S. for a long time. He observed that, the biggest surprise in the relationship between China and the United States is their similarity. In both countries, people who are infuriated by profound gaps in wealth and opportunity have pinned their hopes on nationalist, nostalgic leaders, who encourage them to visualize threats from the outside world. “China, Russia, and the U.S. are moving in the same direction.They’re all trying to be great again,” he said.

Evan Osnos

Jan. 8, 2018 Issue, The New Yorker

Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, and covers politics and foreign affairs. He is the author of “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.”

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