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China and the US: A Lesson in Eurocentrism and Empathy by Renata Shen

According to Western political theory, China’s single-party rule and state controlled economy are doomed to fail. Nevertheless, the nation continues to defy American expectations: China has the world’s second largest GDP and a manufacturing industry that serves as the backbone of the international economy.

Most Americans, however, continue to dismiss China’s rapid economic growth as a fluke, clinging on to the hope that the Chinese Communist Party will eventually fall apart under the pressure of its massive population and turn to democracy. This belief is incorrect and short sighted. On its current course of economic growth, relatively few Chinese have reason to question government practice. Further, if China’s recent termination of presidential term limits and forced relocation of Uyghur muslims are any indication, the nation certainly isn’t leaning towards democracy either.

The other prevailing belief, that the United States must compete with China and force it into political submission, is equally uninformed and unrealistic. Although Americans like to think of themselves as independent agents in the global economy, American business relies heavily on Chinese wealth. The Chinese government continually loans money to the US government; Chinese corporations hold investments in every major U.S. city —a withdrawal of this support would be catastrophic. If the United States continues to dismiss China, escalating political tensions could result in an economic war; one that could have a disastrous, unprecedented effect on the global economy.

Rather than try to push aside or compete with China, the United States needs to make a more active attempt to understand Chinese cultural history and it’s modern government. Doing so would not only lessen the possibility of an economic war, but would also place the U.S.and China on a shared level of understanding.

In it’s past 30 years or so of economic development, China has had to learn about American business, culture and politics as a prerequisite to engaging international markets. Meanwhile, resting comfortably in the position of the world’s most powerful economy, the U.S.has had little need to consider the sociopolitical nuances of other nations. While emerging global powers deeply understand America, the U.S. knows comparatively very little.

In an increasingly connected and competitive global environment, American will soon cease to be the world’s only dominant global power. By 2050, both India and China’s economies are expected to surpass that of the U.S. From a global perspective, America will soon lose it’s so-called exceptionalism, as American-style democracy becomes only one of many competing political systems around the world. If the United States wants to continue its business interests abroad and protect against economic sanctions, American politicians absolutely need to reach an understanding with Chinese policymakers.

As a nation that espouses diversity, the United States has a remarkably difficult time understanding other nations with histories and cultures unlike their own. From a purely pragmatic perspective, Americans can not let their own convoluted notions of political superiority hold them back in the twenty-first century. This is especially true in regards to international relations and establishing respectful non-hostile relations with other countries. China, the United States’ greatest source of economic support and political competition, is no exception.

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