Competition is not a dirty word. Human beings have always been in competition with nature, environment and themselves. We may generally label this type of competition as 'Competition under Darwinism', somewhat following the principles of Darwinism – that is all living species including human beings will compete for survival, competing for natural resources with their natural abilities. As humans forming societies and creating nations, they compete in organized groups, we may generally label this type of competition as 'Competition under Nationalism', somewhat driven by nationalistic spirit or principles. All nations will compete with their resources for resources. History have shown us ample examples which have been called imperialism if the competition evolved into aggression and war. Historians and political scientists have singled out repetitive examples and given them descriptive terms such as 'Thucydides Trap' theory (coined by Prof. Graham Allison of Harvard University) derived from the Greek Spartan war and 'hegemony' theory (coined by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in the 1930s and theorized it by Prof. John Mearsheimer of Chicago University in terms of compeition between rising powers).
The competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union created the “Cold War” lasting more than four decades eventually ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Fortunately, a nuclear war was avoided so that the human race was not totally destroyed. However, inevitably competition remains among nations, since nuclear proliferation was never completely successful. Seemingly following the above hegemony and Thucydides Trap theories, three decades later we have seen the rise of China, perceived as a threat by the U.S. and a few of her allies. Today, in fact, the U.S. and China are in competition in many ways fiercer than the Cold War era. One can look at the competition from military and economic point of views. The current U.S. Administration seems to mix the two into one national competition even though rational thinking should not only separate them but also examine the details to differentiate the competition into (I) cooperative competition to expect win-win result for mutual benefits and (II) calculated competition to expect manageable competition for avoiding mutual destruction.
Firstly, let's look at the military competition. Over all technologies have been advanced so much throughout the world with mostly U.S. leadership in the past three decades. The technological advances in precision manufacturing, communication and space have made the conventional wars very different exhibiting unique characteristics in addition to more advanced nuclear threat and defense arsenal. The unique characteristics of modern wars are:
- Premeditated rapidly executed war supported by long range advanced arsenals.
2. Advanced information gathering and support in terms of cyber war and satellite and other remote surveillance technologies.
3. Media war and economic sanctions targeting at the warring party.
Even though China has not engaged in or initiated as many wars as the U.S. has, China has come a long way in her military capabilities in terms of the above three charateristics features of a modern war. Tracing the history, we do find that China's advance was largely triggered by the U.S. sanction policy against China. Hence, China has exhibited impressive advances in missiles (supersonic and guidance), network technologies (5G communication), and space (satellie and space station) are very much forced out by the U.S. policies.
Secondly, China is striving to develop her economy with her GDP approaching 80% of that of the U.S. This competition should be treated as a cooperative competition to derive mutual benefits. However, the U.S. enjoying the biggest economy in the world for so long she neglected to do a careful planning in economic development in consideration with other economies. China, on the other hand, rigorously maintains her 5-year economic plan (process) to charter her development. As a result, China has become not only a world manufacturer but also a number one trading partner with over 130 countries. Instead of pursuing a cooperative competition strategy to find complimentary and mutually beneficial domains to focus on, the U.S. chose to cut China off her economic chain. The current policy of cutting China off the world semiconductor industry came out of this strategy. However, this policy might just force China to develop a self-sufficient semiconductor industry. More over, the U.S. China policy seeems to be driven by ideological sentiments fanned by politicians rather than rational debate by U.S. China scholars. When the U.S. discovered that her biomedical industry had a dependency on China manufacturers (for example, >50% antibioltics are imported from China), the Administration launched a bio-industty sanction policy. In fact, China has a huge need in medical and healthcare products and services because of her large aging population. Why wouldn't the U.S. explore a cooperative competition in bio-medical industry?
Speaking about population, the author would point out a fundamental economic principle, that is population can be an advantage or liability depending very much on the characteristics of the population such as age, attitude, culture, education, growth, health, knowledge, skills, etc. Under a democratic and humanistic philosophy, one must treat every human being as equal with basic human rights (living and self-developing rights) and as free with opportunity to pursue economic development via competition. Therefore, we should examine the U.S. - China competition from the consideration of population. Hopefully, we can derive a rational analysis and thinking about U.S.-China competition. Nicholas Eberstadt and Evan Abramsky published a paper in Foreign Affairs (9-20-2022) entitled, America’s Education Crisis Is a National Security Threat - How a Smarter World Is Changing the Balance of Power. The main message of this article is to warn the U.S. government that the shrinking percentage of youth having tertiary degree is a national threat. They pointed out in the past 70 years, “the U.S. was the uncontested education superpower; Americans enjoyed the world’s highest levels of educational attainment and accounted for far more of the world’s highly educated workforce than any other country. But that epoch is now history.” From 1977-1993, the U.S. showed almost no growth of population of age 25-29 with bachelor's degree. Such a growth resumed after 1993 but still slower than the decade of 1967-1977.
The following two pieces of data focused on five largest countries or economies (China, India, U.S. Japan and Russia) extracted from the above essay not only can explain the rise of China and the slowing down of the U.S. primary productive force (age 25-64 with tertiary degree) but also provide an important indicator for national planners to develop a rational analysis of the U.S. - China competition:
1. Year 2000 (20.5 – 25 – 42.5 – 16 - 9M) – Year 2020 (48 – 34 – 58 – 17 - 12.5M) – Year 2040 (125 – 68 – 59.5 – 16.5 – 13.5M). Millions of 25-64 with BS/A degree of the five economies (C-I-US-J-R) from year 2000 projected to year 2040.
2. Year 2000 (9 – 12.5 – 19.5 – 7 - 4%) - Year 2020 (13.5 – 8.9 – 16.2 – 4.4 - 2.7%) - Year 2040 (21.2 – 11.3 – 10 – 2.8 -2%). Percentage of 25-64 with bachelor degree of the five economies (C-I-US-J-R) in terms of the world population from year 2000 projected to year 2040.
If the above projection were accurate, the U.S. must accept the fact that the productive force in China will be more than two times of that in the U.S. in 2040 (125M : 59.5M) and China's work force is greater than 21% of the world population in 2040 (U.S. only 10%). Then it can be expected that China's GDP will surpass that of the U.S. way before 2040, most likely in a few years. Therefore, in a rational thinking, the U.S. has no choice but adopt a cooperative competition model based on each's strength and needs to pursue mutual benefits of elevating per capita GDP (GDPPP) growth since China will lead in the absolute GDP figure.