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Op-Ed: If China is really leaving America behind, then let’s learn from China

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    11:01, September 14, 2017

Political chaos in Washington and major global challenges facing the U.S. have left many Chinese wondering if Western democracy is on the verge of collapse. From the "Cultural Revolution" turmoil in Charlottesville, Virginia and the withering of the American Dream to America’s declining global leadership, some see the malfunctioning of the U.S. system and the feeling of American decline as evidence that the Western world is doomed.

RELATED READING: Is America engulfed in a Cultural Revolution?

That feeling of doom and gloom is made even more apparent because of the relative stability and success of China. As a recent article in the Financial Times by Michael Moritz pointed out, China is marching forward at a rapid pace, while the U.S. is either stuck in neutral or going into reverse. America’s growing list of political, social, and economic problems is troubling news for the U.S., and frankly the world, but it does not spell doom for the American system, nor does it necessarily prove that the Chinese system is superior. However, it does highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two systems.

In fact, China and the U.S. can both learn from each other. As facts show, the both systems have their positives and negatives, and you cannot reasonably argue that one is superior to the other. For example, while China’s system is clearly superior at planning long-term national development strategies and policies, and executing them, such as large-scale infrastructure projects and ambitious science and technology plans, it is also dealing with corruption and other problems at home. Likewise, the U.S. system, while strong in some areas, such as the ability to self-correct, is weak in others.

This reality punctures the myth of American supremacy and opens the door to peaceful coexistence, the rational idea that different systems can coexist peacefully. Take the U.S. state of California’s $64 billion effort to build a bullet train over a relatively short distance in the state’s Central Valley, which is noted in the Financial Times article. While California struggles to push forward this single project, China has built the world’s largest bullet train network. As of the end of 2016, China had some 22,000 kilometers (about 13,700 miles) of high-speed rail lines and more high-speed rail is on the way. In addition, massive rail projects are expanding outward, connecting China to countries around the globe under China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

RELATED READING: Op-Ed: The malfunctioning of the US system is making China "great again"

Another example is poverty reduction, arguably the most telling sign of China’s progress in human rights. Just recently, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that its nation’s official poverty rate in 2016 was 12.7 percent, with 40.6 million people in poverty, 2.5 million fewer than in 2015. While impressive, China has achieved unprecedented progress in poverty reduction, including lifting more people out of poverty than any other country in human history. In 2016 alone, China brought 12.4 million rural people above the poverty line, and the government aims to eradicate poverty by 2020. Moritz is dead-on to argue that there can be little debate about what the government in China has done and is doing to improve the wellbeing of its people.

The American system makes it nearly impossible to plan and execute such ambitious long-term plans for its nation’s future, while a strong centralized system that can promote economic development for 1.4 billion people is crucial for China at this stage of its development. This shows that every country should have the right to choose its own political path based on its unique situation, and that no system is necessarily superior to the other. What works for the U.S. will not always work for China, and vice versa. But we can still learn from each other. And indeed, as Moritz has pointed out, China has much to teach the rest of us, including America, and the world should at least be open to the idea of taking notes from China’s successes.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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