The World's 2 Great Powers Choose Their Leaders

OK, I mean the U.S. and China. We make our choice, in the embarrassingly slipshod and sometimes deliberately unfair democratic way we have. They make their choice in the next couple of days, in a process that is embarrassing and unfair in a host of other ways.

Here's a nice immediate reminder of the comparison and contrast. The brand experience manager for Timbuk2 in San Francisco, who is also my daughter-in-law, just put up a post of various get-out-the-vote activity in her office. She includes this picture of her own "I voted!" sticker.


My two simultaneous thoughts:
  • Good for America (and California, and San Francisco) that is has the spirit for that kind of button. My one guiding insight about America over the years is that our openness to the world's talent, through immigration, has been and remains the strategic advantage we have over anyplace else.

  • Not so good for China that lots of people in America can wear buttons saying "我已 投 票!" while almost no one (apart from those in the upper reaches of the Communist Party) can do so in China itself. For more, check out again this interview with Chen Guangcheng.
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In