It is clear from the above analyses, China is far more interested in her economic relations with foreign countries than in military alliance. The U.S. is clearly doing just the opposite. The above data and analyses also discredit the ‘China Threat’ proponents’ argument based on the point of view on U.S. national security. The concept of maintaining military superiority for dominating inter-national or world affairs never worked and is obsolete. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mighty U.S. military power not only did not succeed in settling thorny international or regional conflicts (such as in the Middle East), it only stimulated more arms race which had put a huge burden on the U.S. in military spending. With nuclear power already proliferated, any military conflict between two nuclear power may have a chance to ignite a nuclear war capable of destroying mankind. So obviously one must abandon the strategy of using military power to settle international issues; any military exercise involving nuclear bombers and continental missiles launchers can create vulnerable risks.
IV. Education and Social Systems
As discussed in the demographic analysis, the 4:1 population ratio between China and the U.S. is probably the only significant variable in the comparison of their competitiveness. The most significant consequence of human resources or human power in peace time is productivity. We are not going to assess the human power in war time since we have already concluded that war is not a desirable option for resolving any international problem including the economic competition between the U.S. and China. Currently, the U.S. labor productivity is 12 times of China’s. However, China’s labor productivity has maintained a positive growth, except year 1990, as high as 13% per annum but generally and consistently above 6% for the past two decades, whereas the U.S. labor productivity suffered several times due to recessions (twice in the 1980’s and four times since 2007 to 2019 having negative growth rate) and rarely exceeding 3-4% per annum, more likely below 2%. So China’s higher (3-4 times of the U.S.) growth rate of productivity and 4X labor force (population) essentially mean that the total economic output of the U.S. and China is going to be comparable soon. Whether or not China can maintain her growth rate to eventually surpass the U.S. labor productivity depends very much on her education and social systems in comparison with that of the U.S.
Education system is critical in producing skilled productive work force and social system is important in managing migration and immigration of labor force geographically to match the needs of industry development and transformation. The U.S. education system has been recognized world-wide as being capable of producing high quality education from K-12 and even more so in higher education. However, this high quality of education, attractive to foreign students, does come with a high price tag. The American education system is far more expensive than elsewhere. ($20,000 - $60,000 per student year.) China, to a large extent, has been emulating some of the America education programs, particularly in higher education, but managing it with a lot less cost. So the real competition in national productivity is essentially in education reform - which country can turn out more right skilled and timely needed productive work force at a reasonable cost and in establishing appropriate social programs, including healthcare, immigration and retirement system, that can attract migrant and immigrant (from foreign talents) workers to join and sustain a competitive work force. The U.S. has been successful in attracting foreign talents but she will have to face competition with China.
V. Innovation and System Reform
Both the U.S. and China recognize that the real competitiveness of a nation lies in her ability in advancing technologies and producing innovation in all aspects of a country, especially important in her government system, industrial transformation and the above discussed education and social systems. Military system cannot be eliminated entirely, but it is no longer a strategic investment guaranteeing a ‘healthy return'. (Thucydides Trap theory might not hold for the two strongest competing nations simply because they would realize that neither side could survive a devastating war!) In terms of innovation, the U.S. has a fine track record in pioneering innovative systems such as social security system, immigration policies (green card, H visa, etc), local tax-payer funded public education system augmented with competitive private education institutions. However, the world has changed with rapidly advanced technologies, the human society has transformed into many new social norms challenging the existing systems. The present systems may or may not be a competitive one for the future. In fact, the late comers may have the advantage of taking on innovation without the old baggage or can adopt an old system with new technology support. (For example, some legacy issues existing in the current education, healthcare, retirement and the government system.) It is obvious that a nation must be first focusing on national issues, improving her current systems, and solving domestic problems before developing and realizing competitive strength for the nation.
Summarizing the above analyses, we can conclude that the competitive strength of a nation depends on how well the nation can solve her national and domestic problems (such as infrastructure), build effective systems (such as healthcare and education), then develop her citizens to take on productive career (such as job training for industry innovations thus raising competitive capability. The current COVID-19 pandemic disease provided a lesson for nation building. Such a valuable experience will support our conclusion. The pandemic is a stress test on every nation’s healthcare system, education system, commerce system and government system. It is clear that from the pain each country has suffered we can see that no one has a perfect system to respond to the COVID-19 attack. The sensible thing to do is to engage with each other and to cooperate fully in dealing with the problem.
The challenge brought by the pandemic can be compared with the challenge we face our global economy. We all have a common goal of maintaining a prosperous global economy. It only makes sense for us, of course, especially the two largest economies, the U.S. and China, to engage each other collaboratively to maintain a healthy world economy. Only under a healthy global economy, the U.S. and China can each have its healthy economy. Trade war makes no sense just like blaming each other for the pandemic to each other makes no sense. Therefore, we urge the U.S. and China to adopt an ‘engagement’ foreign policy, starting from dealing with COVID-19 and vaccine development to resolving trade imbalance instead of uttering rhetoric and rattling sabers.