Tyler Cowen reminds me of an issue I used to think a lot about.
…for the first time in my life time, in a way the first time ever, America finally has a peer country. The Soviet Union was a peer with its nuclear weapons but not in general. But in terms of human talent, GDP, China right now is in most ways a peer country to the United States. We’re not ready for that, mentally or emotionally.
It’s been too long since I have given the issue deep thought, but I used to be of the mind that the peaceful transfer of hegemony from the United States to China was the project of the 21st century. Now, at that time I thought that increasing income would lead naturally to liberal democracy, that the United States would be increasingly a Pacific Rim country – 100+ million people in the corridor from Seattle to San Diego – and that the handoff would be akin to that between Britain and the US, after WWII.
None of that has come to pass.
Perhaps most vexing is the seeming disinterest either the Chinese people or the Chinese state have for democratic reform. Can we turn over the world order over to a authoritarian state? My gut response is maybe, sort of.
China as the preeminent military and industrial power, forwardly deployed and heavily invested across the Eastern Hemisphere in close alliance with a Untied States that is the dominate naval and financial power seems in principle workable to me. However, there is a long way from here to there both culturally and geopolitically. It means, not least of all, that we view China as our natural and most important ally, assisting it where we can in establishing itself on the world stage. This is especially important for developing a sense of mutual respect with the Chinese populace. When it comes to geopolitics, I think authoritarian regimes are in some ways more sensitive to popular opinion than democracies.