On Oct. 24, the Chinese Communist Party closed its 19th Party Congress. This is the biggest political event in China and the foreign press was abuzz with predictions about where China was headed under the continued leadership of President Xi Jinping. Jinping laid out a bold and aggressive vision for a China that is developed, scientifically advanced and an undisputed global leader. It may be taboo to say it, but in the era of Donald Trump and a flailing West, the world will be better off under Chinese leadership.
The rise of China is set against the sinking of the US on the world stage. “According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22% of the population has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs.” In another recent survey, only 40% of respondents viewed the US as a “positive global influence.” That is a full 9-point margin when compared to China’s 49% approval rating. It is in the wake of this gap that Jinping and the CCP are “calmly mapping out global leadership aspirations from trade to climate change, drawing distinctions between President Xi Jinping’s steady hand and new U.S. President Donald Trump.”
It isn’t just a popularity contest though. China has blown observers away with its poverty reduction efforts. “In the 20 years after 1981, the proportion of the population living in poverty fell from 53% to 8%,” according to a study in the Journal of Economic Development. That means in 20 years, China pulled around 500 million people out of poverty. That is the most humans pulled from poverty in the fastest time in the history of human civilization.
China isn’t only reducing poverty. It is also set to take over as the world leader in science, particularly in quantum communication and artificial intelligence. A recently released report commissioned by Forbes “predicts the country will be a major exchange hub for global talent flow by 2022.” Because of China’s dynamism and state-led support for the sciences, it is the first nation poised to both export the greatest number of students abroad and attract the most foreign-born students to China itself.
Africa has also benefitted from China’s explosive growth, with increased aid on the continent in the form of canceling billions in debt and building infrastructure with no political strings attached. The Chinese state is also taking bold action against pollution and climate change, recently shuttering thousands of factories, while dealing out fines and even jail time for managers who violate anti-pollution regulations.
This isn’t to say China is perfect, or a utopia; it has serious problems that will need strong reform movements to address. China has achieved historic levels of poverty reduction, but income inequality has reached crisis levels. Also, in spite of Chinese “Founding Father” Mao Zedong’s stricture that “women hold up half the sky,” women in leadership positions are almost nonexistent, especially in the upper layers of the CCP. Additionally, where Cuba was once notoriously brutal to LGBTQIA people and had a major movement to abolish homophobia and transphobia, China has yet to follow suit.
For a younger generation raised on nothing but war and austerity, China may be on the verge of showing us that there is an alternative to neoliberal capitalism. No one may want to say it now, but China’s rise to global power without firing a single shot shows that a war-weary world needs new global leadership. A “new era” for Chinese socialism likely means a new era for the world.