The Future China-U.S. Competition and Democratic Socialism

The Washington Socialist <> February 2018

By Daniel Casey Adkins

The US and China will compete more directly both economically and politically in the next decade.  The competition may strain American politics and change the US political balance if the US is to be more than second place to China.  The US will become second if left to its current politics and the goals of its 1%.  To compete with mercantilism, our nation needs to be organized by democratic socialism whose goal is to empower its entire people, not just the 1%.

China’s accomplishments include raising more people out of poverty than any other country in human history.  China seeks to become the Middle Kingdom that it has always been in its own perception; the center with all the rest of the world at its periphery.  Unlike most American billionaires, China can think in terms of decades and centuries.  Using its wisdom and will, China has a program to make China great again that is based on science, technology, and education.  China accounts for 21 percent of the world’s research and development (R&D) (the comparable figure for the US is 26 percent) and China’s R&D is growing at 18 percent annually (the US is growing at 4 percent).  

It appears that China can reverse goals quickly, as it has in reducing pollution in its capital.  It did this by banning burning coal nearby and forcing many to have very cold winters.  Although it has a “communist” leadership, its economy is mercantilist in that its goal is to advantage itself.  This mercantilism does not endear China to all.  China’s rise is based on education and development, as well as requiring foreign corporations to share proprietary knowledge in addition to gaining such knowledge through hacks.  China’s rise might be seen when it goes to the moon, and has its own space station after the rest of the world retires our international space station.

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The United States’ version of capitalism has as its primary goal to enrich the wealthy and let them lead.  The US has always had a reserve population that was never fully used or educated.  The US was significantly united during World War Two and at that time its reserve population began to enter the prosperous mainstream.  After the war business interests enhanced neoliberalism to move the country to be more in the service of the rich.  The US has integrated many immigrants and made advances in gender equality in the last century and is beginning to look like the world’s population, but this blending is creating a backlash.  The US claims to be a democracy, but democracy depends on an inclusive and educated electorate, which is no longer a national priority.  Elections are becoming games that the rich play using money and science to bias the politics.  Our current president is slowing down education and the health of its people, thus speeding up China’s rise.

The height of American power was achieved during World War II.  That conflict was won by the power of US production, arms, and the Red Army.  On the home front, the US had cooperation between labor, capital, science, and government.  The US shared its production with allies using a program called Lend-Lease, which allowed sending of arms and equipment without immediate payment.  The U.S. aided the war recovery through the Marshall Plan, which speeded rebuilding.  The United Nations was created to establish world cooperation. That was then.

An opportunity for the left today is to show that democratic socialism is not only just, but also more functional at building a strong and resourceful country than neoliberal capitalism or mercantilism.  A democratic socialist US would compete better with a mercantilist China because all our people would be able to learn and produce.  Having a $15 minimum wage is a start to moving people out of poverty and having time for learning.  Free college with support will be required for our population to be their best.  Free continuing education is needed to keep pace with the promise and perils of automation and artificial intelligence, as technology evolves during all our work lives.  Educators must be valued and paid more to have the best minds devoted to developing our children.  Our education must be science-based and we need to eliminate fossil fuel corporations’ ability to sabotage politics because they are too lazy to evolve their companies.  These goals need to be shared around the world. 

The U.S. should declare war on climate change and lead a new lend-lease to equip the entire world with wind turbines and expand all national industrial bases.  This will allow us to combat climate change and lead to a developed world free of unequal dominating nations and classes.  These changes can lead us to our Star Trek future and retire neoliberalism and mercantilism.

Daniel C. Adkins, an active member of Washington, DC DSA, has been a member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America and the American Federation of Teachers among others.   

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

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