The Trump administration mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd has raised the stature of China, which is now perceived as the more competent country in the world.
The Chinese Communist Party or the Chinese Civilization Party(CCP)
By contrast, in evaluating China’s relative strengths and weaknesses, the Trump administration is making the mistake of underestimating China.
Here the supreme ideological conviction that democracies will always triumph against a communist party system creates a particular ideological blindness in America. In reality, functionally, the CCP does not stand for the Chinese Communist Party. It stands for the Chinese Civilization Party.
The key goal of the CCP is not to revive communism globally. It is to revive the world’s oldest civilization and make it again one of the world’s most respected civilizations. This is the goal that energizes the Chinese people and explains the unusual vibrancy and vitality of Chinese society. Equally importantly, the Chinese civilization has historically been the most resilient civilization.
As Professor Wang Gungwu says, it is the only civilization to have been knocked four times over four thousand years. Each time it stood up again. There is no doubt that Chinese civilization is now a great renaissance.
It is therefore unwise for any American strategic thinker to assume that Americans cannot lose. It’s true that America hasn’t lost a major contest in over a hundred years but it has never had to deal with a competitor as formidable as China. Equally importantly, if the primary goal of the CCP is to improve the well-being of its people (and thereby revive Chinese civilization), there need not be a fundamental contradiction with the primary goal of any new American administration: to once again improve the well-being of the American people.
Hence, when the Trump administration goes and America tries again to work out a more thoughtful long-term strategy towards China, it should consider a now unthinkable option: a strong Chinese civilization and a strong America can live together in peace in the twenty-first century. The world will be relieved and even cheer this outcome. And the American people will be better off.
Kishore Mahbubani is a professor in the practice of public policy at the National University of Singapore and the author of Has China Won?
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