By Kyle Borland
“China owns us.”
We’ve been hearing it our entire lives. For as long as we’ve been alive, it’s been a constant worry that at some point China will ask us to pay our debt. It’s the Millennial equivalent to Baby Boomer’s hiding under their desks.
Given that comparison, it’s obvious that we should fear the rise of the (once) sleeping dragon. To do so, however, is to ignore one very important factor: history. For much of human history, China has been one of the – if not, the – most powerful countries in the world. Until modern times, China was always the richest and most populous country in the world (some things never change). From 1405 to 1433, the Ming Dynasty under the Yongle Emperor financed a navy for exploration and maritime dominance that the world had never seen.
Almost one-hundred years before Columbus set foot in America, China circled the [known] world to show its muscle. If the next emperor hadn’t burned the fleet to the ground and ceased the expeditions – we might all be speaking Chinese.
But, that’s all history. How should we feel about China now? Should we fear the “rise” of today’s China?
The short answer: no.
If the world still operated as it did before American hegemony, than I would say a hard yes. Before American hegemony, any country that could amass a military to rival your own would be worthy of fear. However, American hegemony is different from other nations that came before it. It has a self-destruct button. Now, I’m not saying that one-day America is going pull a Voltorb and blow itself up. Rather, I am saying that American hegemony has an expiration date built in.
Hear me out.
American hegemony’s ultimate goal is to spread the American way of life around the world. Picture in your mind what the “American way of life” is for a moment. To me, the beauty of America is that everyone reading this pictured something different from everyone else that reads it. No two Americans are exactly the same because our nation was founded on the ideals that no two people are exactly the same – and that’s okay.
Actually, that’s our strength.
American hegemony is unique from all our counterparts throughout history because – though we may not have the noblest of reasons – some of our influence has helped different nations around the world.
America is unparalleled in power. If we had not wanted nations like North Korea, Cuba or Iran (pre-lifting of sanctions) to rise, we would’ve stopped them. We have established a world order where our hands are in everyone’s cookie jar and, for the world to operate, the octopus must function properly.
But just as the American octopus has its tentacles in everything, the Chinese dragon has coiled around all the jars. And, we can either look at the dragon as an adversary or we can say “thank you” for the help. Would Atlas have feared assistance when holding up the world?
Let’s go back to that self-destruct button. Under American hegemony, the seeds from global governance have been laid. In the long run, a global government can never exist when there is a sole hegemon. If that is the case, then the global government is simply a proxy for the bidding of the hegemon (cough UN cough). However, in a multi-polar world (re: a balanced world), a global government can occur. We even created a new form of communication (re: the internet) to facilitate global understanding.
In the next several centuries, nations will watch as our languages, cultures and people merge together. The world will become a melting pot (America’s end game). At some point in the future, all humans will speak the same language because of the Internet and globalization. Don’t believe me? Are you correcting me in Latin from behind your screen?
In 6,000 years of recorded history, the human race has achieved amazing things. But, to achieve the next level of evolution, no one person, city, state or country has ever been able to do it alone. Caesar needed his triumvirate. Zheng-Du needed the Yongle Emperor. America needed the French at Yorktown.
As millennials, we cannot think like our parents and the generations before us. We have grown up with access to technology and knowledge that people could never have dreamt. Because of this, we have a duty to the world to change how it interacts.
I’m sure there was several times throughout this that you laughed to yourself and called me insane. But, isn’t a key component of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect the same result?
So, why would you fear China when you already know it doesn’t work? That’s worse than insane – it’s inefficient.
And that’s something to fear.
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Cover Photo Credit: futureatlas.com/Flickr (CC by 2.0)