During an interview with Atlantic Monthly, Hillary said, “They’re worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand. They cannot do it, but they’re going to hold it off as long as possible.” Almost the whole world read about China being on a “fool’s errand” after this quote was cited and reported by mainstream Western media outlets like Reuters, Agence France-Presse and so on. Over 20 famous Chinese international experts were interviewed by the media; 16 viewed Hillary’s words as diplomatic faux pas while 12 believed that Hillary should elaborate her position. “Fool’s errand” is obviously a derogatory term. It is no wonder that scholars said that this is the most severe official criticism since Clinton accused China of changing in the wrong direction in 1997.
Many netizens are furious at this American diplomat, but I am more cool-headed as there are far too many examples to explain that our actions are not foolish. China is currently on its growth path. The changes that occur in tea production in my hometown, a mountainous area in southern coastal China, serve as an example.
During my trip back home for the Lunar New Year, I realized many locals who used to ride motorcycles are now driving compact cars. As a result, a huge traffic jam took place in Beijing on a certain day of the first month of the Lunar New Year. I heard a highway network would be be built in the mountainous area. In the past, it took about two to three hours to go a few dozen kilometers from the mountains to the seaside by bus. In the future, with the highway, that time will be shortened to less than an hour. In addition, a tea competition took place in this area.
One kilogram of tea leaves picked in spring was auctioned at a price of almost 20,000 yuan. Regardless of the type of famous Chinese tea, such prices are rare. Such prices were unimaginable in the past when excellent quality was associated with reasonable prices. As early as 1978, tea produced from the local tea estate was given as a national gift to Emperor Hirohito of Japan. Now, tea farmers have no reason to worry that their tea will be worthless.
China’s development has brought many tangible benefits to many areas in China. These benefits are obvious. Just when everybody is worried that the construction of China’s high-speed railway is too fast and costs too much, there are already many who have already enjoyed the benefits of convenience of commuting. We will not deny the success of our accomplishments despite real problems. Talk of the “collapse of China” does not match what people really believe. In fact, Hillary talks of China when discussing how the U.S. should deal with the Middle Eastern revolution, saying, “We live in a real world. We don’t walk away from dealing with China because we think they have a deplorable human rights record. We don’t walk away from dealing with Saudi Arabia.” What the U.S. dwells on is her own interests.
Samuel P. Huntington pointed out in his book “The Clash of Civilizations” that “economic growth is strengthening Asian governments in relation to Western governments.” He also mentioned that “overall the growing economic strength of the Asian countries renders them increasingly immune to Western pressure concerning human rights and democracy.” This is also consistent with the current situation of China. All the more reason that this should be the perspective to view the world. Let us not forget when Richard Nixon said in 1994, “Today, China’s economic power makes U.S. lectures about human rights imprudent. Within a decade it will make them irrelevant. Within two decades it will make them laughable.” Whether Hillary’s words were right, Huntington makes sense and Nixon’s thoughts were far-sighted. Some scholars said that although the same social problems exist in Middle East, China’s problems are due to its success while Middle East’s problems are due to its failure.
In the long run, strengthening Asian societies is equivalent to strengthening the power of Asian governments, and economic growth will give rise to an increasingly powerful middle class. If this is the case, how does one explain Hillary’s open display of disrespect for China if the progress of the Chinese society is not dependent on what she says? Or, perhaps one can say that even a typical American elite like Hillary, despite being straightforward, knows that the relationship between the U.S. and China can never become too good nor too bad.