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Recap: Has China Won? with Kishore Mahbubani and Graham Allison, 4.7.20

Recap: Has China Won? with Kishore Mahbubani and Graham Allison, 4.7.20

On April 7, China Institute hosted the first virtual program in our ‘Beyond COVID0-19’ series, asking Has China Won?. Leading public intellectuals Kishore Mahbubani and Graham Allison shared insights on the shifting global order in the time of coronavirus and what it will mean for businesses and our lives for many years to come. The conversaiton was moderated by FT columnist Rana Foroohar.

Watch the full event recording below, read an article in South China Morning Post on the program, and explore additional, free virtual programs in the ‘Beyond COVID-19’ Series from China Institute.

Quotes from the Virtual Program:

Mahbubani: “It is too early to tell the lasting effects of COVID-19. But…it has aggravated the U.S.-China geopolitical contest, which had already begun. …This crisis reveals the lack of trust between the two powers. …China’s primary goal is not to promote communism around the world…The fundamental interest to them is to overcome the century of humiliation that they suffered (starting with the Opium War.) Those wounds are reopening during this COVID crisis. When you have a crisis like COVID-19 it can heal and bring people together, or it can reopen painful wounds. That is what I feel COVID-19 is doing to the world today.”

Allison: “Coronavirus is like a flash of lightening that illuminates the landscape for a flash that allows us to see some of the contours obscured by the dark. In my understanding of the big picture, (the disease) is an existential threat to the most vital interests of the USA, it is an existential threat to China, and it poses a threat that neither state can defeat by itself.”

Mahbubani: “At the end of the day, (in this crisis,) China’s standing in the world has gone up and the U.S.’ has gone down, sadly. But the people who will decide who wins between the U.S. and China…will be the 6 billion people who don’t live in these countries. They use the cold calculus of reason to work up a cost-benefit analysis of which country provides them the most direct benefits. When you need a new hospital or whatnot, where do you go? The Chinese are building up a global network of influence where countries rely on them for real things, not words. That is why, I don’t think China has won yet, but it is an absolute mistake to think that China can’t win. The real battle will be in the economy. You have a meritocracy versus a plutocracy and you don’t bet against a meritocracy.”

Allison: “If you go to Australia, Singapore, Japan, and other societies like America, they say ‘Don’t make us choose between our economic relationship with China and our security relationship with the U.S.’ (These countries) also say ‘don’t leave us alone with China.’ The third-party actors will make this considerably more complex than the bi-power relationship in the Cold War.”

Mahbubani: “(In China,) the best are being funneled into a very careful meritocratic system of selection, so at end of day you get the quality of mind in the institutions that is absolutely remarkable, the people who are engaging with these are amazed by how well informed they are. You have a very efficient, meritocratic government. Yes, it stumbled at the beginning of COVID, but once it picked itself up, my God, it took this dramatic action of closing down a province of 60 million people two days before Chinese New Year! Believe me, that is shocking! It’s like closing down the U.S. two days before Thanksgiving!”

Full Video of the Virtual Program

An excerpt from the program we call “One Question: Two Answers”

The Beyond COVID-19 series presents expert perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on the global order, the restaurant business, and the world economy.

Join us for a live virtual program with leading public intellectuals on COVID-19 and the shifting global order

Join us for a FREE, live online program about how Chinese restaurants are responding to the health crisis.

Join us for a FREE, live online program with top experts on U.S.-China efforts to boost the world economy.


Visual reporting by artist Sophie Ong.