Is the United States a serious country? Should we be?
Eugene Robinson urges us to be a more serious country:
China, for better or worse, is a serious country. The United States had better start acting like one.
I got a glimpse of the future Wednesday in the vast ballroom of a Washington hotel where hundreds of august dignitaries — and some journalists as well — gathered at a luncheon in honor of Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to become China’s top leader after a year-long transition.
China is a one-party state, but that does not mean there is no debate about the country’s direction. Xi is considered likely to keep the nation on its current path of free-market economic growth. His political adversary Bo Xilai advocates a more robust safety net to care for the millions who are being left out of the Chinese economic miracle.
There are also internal disagreements about how aggressive China should be in asserting its military influence throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. Addressing the environmental cost of the country’s rapid development will be an urgent task for the incoming leadership. China’s records on human rights and political openness are still abysmal.
These are serious questions, but Chinese leaders at least are grappling with them in a serious manner. But here in the United States?
As any resident of the city of Chicago could tell you, one party rule is not sufficient to ensure that leaders deal with serious problems in a serious way. No, what it requires is the ability to ignore competing interests.
Rather than get lost in the weeds of what being serious would mean or whether China is, in fact, a serious country in the sense that Mr. Robinson is using, let’s focus on leadership. I think that China’s leaders are tougher and smarter than ours and with good reason.
Entry into the Chinese civil service system is by competitive examination. Promotion occurs through proven accomplishment rather than by campaigning for office. Using those criteria which of the following would have risen to the highest office in the land?
George W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
I think, arguably, none of them would. Perhaps the most serious candidate would have been George H. W. Bush (for whom I never voted for anything).
Should we be serious?