Why do these Chinese get
what we Americans can’t?

Dmitry Kosyrev

Why do these Chinese get what we Americans can’t? This question is being asked by a man who long ago predicted that America would have to learn Chinese. His name is Eamon Fingleton, back in 2008 he published a book called Dragon’s Jaws: The Destiny of the United States in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony.
Today he comes up with an article that is limited to the economic oddities of Chinese society. And also the societies of Japan and South Korea, that is, it turns out that Asia is entirely beating the West. Fingleton unites them under the common label of Confucian societies. And indeed – no matter how you call them, but the common traditions of all the aforementioned peoples are evident.
True, in this trio, China is ahead of the others – at the end of 2021, only one southern province, Guang-dong, apparently surpassed all of South Korea in terms of GDP produced. But let’s not digress. Let’s see what our Confucians have from the secrets of success.
The first is savings. In Asia, the savings rate of people is noticeably higher than in the West, and this allows banks to invest in production, which works faster. In the United States, people are forced to consume by any means, while in Asia, consumption is suppressed, and the key goal there is the productivity of each employee. It is believed that at the root of the whole phenomenon is society’s respect for a modest lifestyle (which encourages savings instincts).
Confucius personally did not seem to have said anything on the topic of thriftiness, but it’s time to admit that Fingleton generally attracted the great philosopher here quite freely, simply because his general ideas underlie the thinking of the three nations mentioned. Although not equally, but all this is particular.
The second secret to success is protecting your markets in a variety of ways. The most primitive of them is simply to close the borders for other people’s goods, but there is another way: to work through large corporations, which may be private, but are closely connected with the state. Such underlie the success of Japan and South Korea. For example, you can encourage their export with the help of a smart foreign policy. And at the heart of this phenomenon, of course, is the Confucian idea of society as a single system, a pyramid of merit, in which everyone is somehow connected and owes each other.
And there is another Asian secret here – they don’t like to kick people out into the street even in the middle of a crisis. They try to keep the staff at any cost. On the other hand, an individual employee, if he treats his first employer badly, can get problems with the next one.
It’s time to say that the s-ame observations were ma-de, including by American experts, back in the 60s, when it was only about Japan, then in the 70s, when Korea also caught up. So what’s interesting is not that, but Fingleton’s clear diagnosis: the economic system that makes Asia successful is “an epoch-making threat to human freedom.” That is a challenge to America and the West as a whole. But does this system work better? Well, yes, that’s why she’s a challenge. What should be done with the challenge?
Here we find ourselves in an endless sea of human despair: it turns out that we, the West, are not the best. What to do – with yourself, Asia and especially with China? No answer.
Let us pay attention to a recent publication in the American journal Foreign Affairs, where this issue is raised in a very effective way. The author says: you have been explaining to us for many years now that China is the main challenge for the United States, their main competitor. Okay, but then explain what you are doing now, what does it mean to “answer the call”? What is the meaning, what is the purpose of all these alarmist talks (including about the enemy of freedom Confucius), threats and military stirrings? What are we trying to achieve, if anything?
In the case of the USSR, everything was, oddly enough, simple and understandable to the entire public. Diplomat George Kennan wrote the article back in 1947, from which all other formulations went. It said: we must achieve either the destruction or the gradual softening of the Soviet regime. This is how they worked until 1991: they still can’t break it, which means they need to be tamed, to prevent Mos-cow from causing irreparable damage to Western int-erests. We also knew about it and reacted accordingly.
And with China so far – only tantrums. Approxim-ately the same as around Moscow’s demand to work out agreements on strategic security and security in E-urope. What to say and wh-at to do, what to achieve is unclear, politics has no go-als, there is only a dream: to wake up and see that everything is like yesterday.
Here is an article about Confucius and Asian economies – pure hysteria: authoritarianism works better than the American system. What to do? And it is not clear, because “we are witnessing a fundamental revolution”, the world is moving away from “an era when free societies flouris-hed precisely because they were free”, and we are mo-ving towards an era when “authoritarian societies flourish precisely because they are authoritarian”.
A beautiful horror story, but let’s remember what happened in China in the 60s and 70s, when its ultra-left rulers seriously tried to change Chinese civilization itself, including forcing it to abandon the legacy of Confucius (he was then actively criticized). What happened? Total collapse, which changed only when the Chinese became Chin-ese again and Confucius returned. And now – here it is, overtaking America.
But let’s imagine the opposite picture. Alarmists like Emon Fingleton will either decide to destroy China (and try to do it), or rather change American society, make it Confucian by force. And will it cha-nge? People around the wo-rld do not live in order to o-vertake other countries and societies, but in order to exist in harmony with their ideals and habits, those that are at the moment. If Am-ericans are used to freedom (and excessive consumption), then neither China nor even the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden will change their nature. But if talking about freedom is white propaganda noise, then things are bad and it’s time to learn Chinese.