Kishore Mahbubani on China’s rise and America’s myopia


China, as we say at the beginning of each Sinica Podcast episode, is a nation that is reshaping the world. But what does that reshaping really look like, and how does — and should — the world react to China’s role in globalization?

Few are better placed to answer these questions than Kishore Mahbubani, a veteran former diplomat from Singapore who recently ended a stint as dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He remains on the faculty there but is taking a sabbatical, in part to write a book for Penguin UK titled Has the West Lost It? His most recent book was titled The ASEAN Miracle: A Catalyst for Peace.

In this podcast, Kishore, as he often does, brings up a number of provocative ideas (read here a piece in the World Post last year in which he raises many of the same ideas), particularly for Americans. Among them:

  • The most important event of 2001 was not the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but China’s entry into the World Trade Organization.
  • The U.S. and China are perfectly positioned for an infrastructure cooperation deal, but China’s communist identity, more than anything, makes such cooperation unthinkable.
  • To address this psychological block, Americans — and all Westerners — should think of China’s government as led by the Chinese Civilization Party, not the Chinese Communist Party, because its goal is to revive Chinese civilization, not to export communism.
  • If Americans don’t start preparing for a world in which they are the number two power, the political shock when it happens could very well lead to a president even more misguided than Trump. (Both the International Monetary Fund moving its headquarters to China and Chinese currency becoming the primary international reserve currency in the coming decades are inevitable, for example, Kishore argues.)


Jeremy: A field guide to the wild birds of Beijing (北京野鸟图 běijīng yěniǎo tújiàn), available only in Chinese.

Kishore: A recommendation to visit Indonesia, what Kishore calls “one of the most underrated and underappreciated countries in the world.” A decade ago, it was hit hard by the financial crisis and many Westerners thought it would fracture as a country — but now, it is the most successful democracy in the Islamic world.

Kaiser: A typically tongue-in-cheek tweet from New York Times reporter Chris Buckley, which purports to show how the Warring States–era political philosopher Han Feizi explained the selection process for the Politburo Standing Committee at the 19th Party Congress last fall.