January 9, 2019 By J.R. Dunn
Back in the days of the Cold War, much was said about the titanic power of the Soviet Union. The USSR, we were told, was a superpower the equal of the United States, possibly even superior. This meme was spread by lefties who wanted the USSR to win, by sincere pacifists hoping to stop war before it could begin, and by an enormous cohort of liberals who repeated it because they heard it from the first two. (Much liberalism can be explained this way. It's the ultimate "I heard it from somebody" ideology.)
Needless to say, it was gibbering nonsense. The late '80s Soviet collapse revealed that the USSR was never any kind of power at all – an economy that didn't produce, weapons that didn't work, a populace addicted to drink and overwhelmed with despair. "Bulgaria with nukes" is how someone characterized it, and truer words were never spoken. That remains the case today, despite Vlad Putin's chest-beating, and it's likely to remain the case as far ahead as anyone can see.
The same trope is being repeated regarding China. China, we are told, is the coming nation. The second largest economy on Earth, soon to be the first. A billion and a half people, each more educated than any American; a military power second to none, with advanced weapons of a nature that we can only gape at. A country exercising its power over vast reaches of the Pacific and moving into the Indian Ocean, Africa, and the Mideast with no one to oppose it.
We hear this from the likes of Thomas Friedman, who has spent much of his career looking for his personal Mussolini. It's repeated by deeper figures across the political spectrum. In fact, it can be said without exaggeration to have become received wisdom.
There's no point in asking how true this is. The proper question to ask is whether it embodies any truth at all.
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