China's Leadership Transition No Match Next to America's (Les Echos, France)
his victory speech to the multitude of anonymous American citizens who went
door to door canvassing for votes for their respective camps, despite the obstacles
put in their way by institutions or the forces of nature - Obama described in
the most direct manner, the nobility of democracy. Men and women free to mobilize
and express themselves and change the course of their destiny. That evening, America's
'soft power' won a KO victory over Chinese rule."
With the Chinese Communist Party choosing the nation's leader for the next ten years - with no direct input from the Chinese people - a policeman stands guard at the Tiananmen Gate of the Forbidden City, Beijing, Nov. 13.
In the aftermath of the U.S. elections, one lesson outweighs
all others: The United States continues to dream. Its strategic centrality, and
more importantly, its economic centrality, may no longer be what it was, but
its emotional centrality remains unique. During the past week, the world has
witnessed two victories: Barack Obama over Mitt Romney and America's democratic
principles over the non-democratic ones of China. In a few sentences and in a
magical moment, Barack Obama celebrated the “mystery of democracy” in the most
concrete and almost religious way. Referring in his victory speech to the
multitude of anonymous American citizens who went door to door canvassing for votes
for their respective camps, despite the obstacles put in their way by
institutions or the forces of nature - he described in the most direct manner,
the nobility of democracy. Men and women free to mobilize and express
themselves and change the course of their destiny. That evening, America’s
“soft power” won a KO victory
over Chinese rule.
Of course, America is no longer what it was. It is not, as
it once was, the ultimate form of life insurance for its allies. But if its
power to protect has significantly diminished in a way it is tempting to
describe as inversely proportional to the size of its debts, America’s power to
inspire remains unique. The undisputed victory of Barack Obama is not only one
of democracy, it is that of a certain vision of America. By maintaining an open
immigration policy, by speaking positively and respectfully of all those who
want to be openly different, by viewing women in a dignified and modern way,
Barack Obama has used American exceptionalism to his advantage; As noted by British
historian Simon Schama, who teaches in the U.S., this recalls above all
a single word: diversity. By ignoring this diversity, the Republican Party doomed
itself to failure. It deliberately placed itself outside of history. This
defeat, more due to the party than the candidate himself, who was not unworthy,
is a universal lesson for all democracies: Ignore change at your peril, and
more importantly, nothing is gained by cultivating extremes or by being their
prisoner. You run the risk of not only losing your soul, but elections as well.
The greatness of American democracy cannot obscure its
limitations and blockages. To have the same president, the same majority in
the House of Representatives and the Senate, wasn't the price a little high?
Financial excess is a cancer eating away at the heart of the democratic
process. Mobilizing people’s energy is one thing, but escalating campaign
budgets is another. Moreover, “vetocracy” continues
to haunt an America facing the precipice if it fails to sort out its
decision-making processes. Too much democracy undermines democracy.
But with Obama’s re-election, the United States just sent
the world a message of hope. For that message not to be a dead letter and so
that unlike before, a gap no longer exists between rhetoric and reality,
America must focus effectively on itself, face up to the profound problem of its
debt, and recognize that it cannot accept infrastructure resembling that of the
The United States is no longer the player it once was on the
international scene. It must accept the reality of China and learn to live and deal
with the country as an equal - a country that more than ever remains “a riddle
wrapped in a mystery.” This is a difficult challenge culturally for an America
that never even understood the intricacies of the balance of power in Europe. But
the challenge facing China is of an entirely different magnitude. America must
live with the reality of China. And China must reform in the shadow of the Internet-wide
American dream. In 1989, Chinese students descended en masse on Tiananmen
Square, behind a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Today it is not the strength
of America that is a threat to China - it is the American dream.
*Dominique Moisi, a professor at King's College London, is a special
adviser to Ifri, (the French Institute for
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