OPINION / OBSERVER
Is China a paper dragon? US elites in dire lack of objective understanding in China
Published: May 05, 2021 09:54 PM
China-US relations Photo: GT

China-US relations Photo: GT


The Atlantic published an article on Tuesday entitled, "China Is a Paper Dragon," which noted that China's strength has been "hugely exaggerated." It is not known whether American elites are able to realize that their words are often contradictory. They are the ones who are high on analyzing how China is a "threat." And they are also the ones who have hyped the "China collapse theory" and now "China is a paper dragon." What is China exactly? Apparently objective understanding in China is in short supply among US elites. 

The author, David Frum, based his argument on a 2018 book by Michael Beckley, associate professor of political science at Tufts University called Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World's Sole Superpower. Frum raised that "American analysts often publish worries about China's growing navy, and especially its two aircraft carriers." But he later argued, "Most of its troops had to be deployed to suppress rebellions and control banditry, leaving few available for war-fighting." Frum also quoted the book as saying Chinese universities are described as merely "diploma factories," China's spending on research and development is very limited and the country remains "dependent on foreign technologies." 

These excuses would only make Chinese audiences laugh. American elites may find it a cliché when China explains its military development is defensive in nature. But it is the truth. The development of China's armed forces indeed focuses on combat readiness given the increasingly complicated geopolitical situation but it is even more ridiculous to see the argument that "most of Chinese troops are deployed to suppress rebellions and control banditry." 

It is confusing why certain US elites are so resistant to digest the reality - China's armed forces come from the people, serve the people, and fight for the people. China's military has taken and always will play a frontline role in crises, such as the fight against coronavirus, disaster relief and evacuations of citizens overseas. What's more puzzling is to see them hyping that Chinese troops are threatening yet at the same time, Chinese troops are not available to fight.

What the author mentioned is precisely what happens in the US. See where and what for the US troops are deployed after the Capitol riot, at whom their loaded guns were aimed at, and who were they protecting.

There is indeed a gap between high-level education in China and the US. But China is reforming and improving relevant fields. China is also catching up with the US in the high-tech industry. To what extent? "China was the biggest source of applications for international patents in the world in 2020 for the second consecutive year," Reuters reported in March. 

Frum hardly proves that China is a paper dragon, but once again showed how misjudgments about China have become a US tradition. Leaving the China collapse theory aside, in 2012, Beckley published an article predicting that "China will remain poor and technologically underdeveloped for many years," hinting it won't become "a giant Japan." Let's see China's development today. 

When claiming China is a paper dragon, Frum and some US elites he represents mistake China's development intentions - China never wants to pursue hegemony or "threaten" the US. However, Washington lost its confidence. Especially now when the US is on a path of relative decline, it refuses to admit reality.

As a result, a contradiction is bubbling up in US public opinion - clamoring that China threatens most of the time, while cheering themselves up by arguing China is much more fragile than commonly believed. What a mental disorder! It is all caused by the dire lack of willingness among US elites to understand China. 

US strength cannot be underestimated. But the US has been obviously abusing its power, launching wars globally at its whim as it believes it has the sole super military strength. Such deeds did not win it support from other countries, nor has the US realized its ultimate goal in the battlefields, observers believed.  

In Chinese culture, dragons are considered auspicious and lucky, not the evil creature in Western lore. If China is compared to a dragon, it is dragon of wisdom with its own strategic resolve - focusing on developing and improving itself, unlike the US, which is stirring up troubles everywhere. If the US cannot see it, it will only make more mistakes in China policy with prices, observers noted.   

If US power is utilized to contain China while maintaining its hegemony, it is a true paper tiger. When China is safeguarding its sovereignty and core interests, it is unquestionably not a paper dragon. 
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