Over the past 10 years of living in and then writing about China, I’ve struck these big three recurring themes:
- That it is impressive and notable for the U.S. and China to have managed relations as well as they have over the past 35-plus years, considering the very deep differences between them and the very high stakes for the world; and that it is important for them to keep doing so.
- That Americans should try to master the mental balancing act of taking China seriously, without being afraid of it. This goes against the nature of big, continental, inward-looking countries like the United States (or China, Russia, India), which tend to take outsiders seriously only when feeling menaced by them. But it’s an important challenge for Americans to meet.
The need to take China seriously is obvious because of its scale and impact. The reason not to be afraid of it is that whatever problems the U.S. (or Europe or Japan or other developed countries) might have, China has vastly more. Also, its problems are much harder to solve, simultaneously more urgent and more deeply chronic, and with less margin for error. And I’m not even talking about the stock market / currency disruptions in China that dominate the news now, or the catastrophic explosion in Tianjin.