nye189_Antonio MasielloGetty Images_xi jinping Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Does China Have Feet of Clay?

No one knows what China’s future holds, and there is a long history of faulty predictions of systemic collapse or stagnation. Neither outcome is likely, though the country is facing several challenges that are far more serious than many observers seem to think.

CAMBRIDGE – Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to be on a roll. He has sent a rocket to the dark side of the moon, built artificial islands on contested reefs in the South China Sea, and recently enticed Italy to break ranks with its European partners and sign on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s unilateralist posture has reduced America’s soft power and influence.

China’s economic performance over the past four decades has been truly impressive. It is now the main trading partner for more than a hundred countries compared to about half that number for the United States. Its economic growth has slowed, but its official 6% annual rate is more than twice the American rate. Conventional wisdom projects that China’s economy will surpass that of the US in size in the coming decade.

Perhaps. But it is also possible that Xi has feet of clay.

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