May 20, 2020 - World

Has China won? An ex-Singaporean diplomat on America's biggest mistake

Book cover of "Has China won?"
Image credit: Aïda Amer/Axios

This item first appeared in the Axios China newsletter. Subscribe here.

For those of you who like to look at things from both sides, you'll likely enjoy the latest book by Singaporean former diplomat Kishore Mahbubani.

The big question: "Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy" (Public Affairs, March 2020) starts with a question no U.S. politician dares address publicly: "What strategic changes will America have to make when it no longer is the world's dominant economic power?"

Key takeaways: Mahbubani examines both China's and America's biggest strategic mistakes.

  • Mahbubani says China's biggest error in its dealings with the U.S. was alienating the U.S. business community, once China's loudest supporter in Washington, through years of predatory practices such as forced technology transfer.
  • And America's biggest mistake was launching a geopolitical contest with China "without first working out a long-term strategy."

Flashback: I asked Mahbubani what he thought the Obama administration's biggest mistake was.

  • He said it was the "prevalent belief that a country like the U.S., that is less than 250 years old and has less than a quarter of the population of China, could transform a country the size of China with a 4,000-year history."
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