Since the financial crisis of 2008, leftwing politicians, pundits, and activists in America have been busy either fawning all over or despairing about China. Repeatedly, they have lauded Beijing’s ability to undertake grand projects far more quickly than Washington’s political gridlock would ever allow. From New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to trade unionist Andy Stern to President Barack Obama, prominent Americans on the political left cannot stop using the example of China to advocate the need to drastically increase the size of the U.S. government and spend big on liberal priorities.
Yet another group of Americans, one far less interested in transforming the United States into a European welfare state, have been no less gushing in their praise of Chinese authoritarian chic. This group consists of business executives who are far more familiar with the workings of the free market than they are with the dogma of liberal ideology, and are driven first and foremost by the profit motive than big-government worship. Their China enthusiasm, however flawed, sheds light on America’s economic weaknesses and deserves attention.
In recent years, business leaders have increasingly described the Chinese state as a paragon of efficiency. Frequently, they marvel at the rapid pace with which jobs are created, contracts are signed, and infrastructure is built.