We need to talk about China

Tatihn Mellieon, Staff Writer

If there’s one current topic in politics that every politician across the globe has a say in, it’s the ice-cold conflict between the U.S. and China. While both nations will never say it out loud, it’s clear that there’s a growing tension between the superpowers, and the tension stems from a simple question: who’s the better capitalist?

But hold on, isn’t China communist? No, they’re not. While they have adopted socialist concepts such as nationalized industry, public transit and universal healthcare. People have little access to international platforms such as social media and television, as well as undemocratic election laws, which changed in 2018 to allow Xi Jinping to remain in power. Sure, China may have hints of left-wing ideology, but nothing more than countries like Sweden or Norway, which have the same authoritarian themes found in Russia or North Korea.

Not that we’ve gotten that redundant question out of the way, but we can get back on track. The United States is staging China as its new main rival, something that’s been creeping into the position over the last few decades. While industrialization of the country had been occurring since the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the second half of the century that most of the action happened.

First, China started with agriculture in the late ’70s, dramatically increasing the output of agriculture, the overall population and GDP. Second, during the late 80s, the country began to mass produce things like textiles, furniture, toys and cotton, becoming the largest manufacturer of such products on the planet. Finally, during their current period of growth that began in the late 90s, China has invested itself in newer production such as machinery, as well as investing in the country itself with highways and high-speed rail.

So, China industrialized fast, catching up and even exceeding the U.S. in some areas, and now we can watch in real time what the repercussions of this rivalry are. The easiest example of this has been China’s role in Russia’s war in Ukraine, something I’ve elaborated on previously and has continued to unfold since, with China’s Xi Jinping visiting long-time war criminal Vladimir Putin.

But that’s not the only instance: the tension between China and American-backed Taiwan continues to mount. A supposed Chinese spy balloon flew over the mainland U.S. before being shot down by a jet and China has been getting quite cozy with countries considered adversarial to the U.S., such as aforementioned Russia, Iran and even North Korea.

With all this in mind, what exactly is going to happen? Well, that’s the issue, no one knows. Some retired military officials in the U.S. claim we’re heading toward WW3, with others, such as legislators and media outlets, claiming that we’re already in a second Cold War.

Either way, the consensus is that the next global conflict will have the aging superpowers at the center. But, given the fact both have a large section of their populations aging quite rapidly, it’s unlikely any physical conflict will occur. 

The more likely outcome is a retreading of the Cold War concept, but instead of two radically opposing ideas at the forefront, it’ll be two different sides of capitalism: with the U.S. leading the charge representing neoliberal capitalism, and China promoting its slightly socialist, mostly authoritarian version of manufacturing-based capital.