Harry J. Kazianis
Dead and buried?
Indeed, one could make a compelling argument that Beijing’s leaders—certainly burning the midnight oil over the state of their economy and America’s pivot to Asia—when pressed, clearly fears ending up like the old Soviet state. In my travels throughout Asia in the last several years as well as at the sidelines of various conferences and gatherings it seems the Soviet collapse ends up being something Chinese officials make clear they will avoid. They fear the power they hold today could be swept away tomorrow—cast aside by corruption, overspending on the military, political paralysis, divisions in society and so on.
Over two decades ago, the mighty Soviet Union was finally thrown onto the ash heap of history—never to rise again. And yet, the fall of one of the most powerful empires in human history, we often forget, was never a sure thing. Indeed, looking back just ten years’ time, to 1981, very few people foresaw the demise of the USSR. In fact, many made predictions that it was America who was in for a rough patch in the years to come. Even a cursory survey of history from that era depicts an America still struggling to overcome a deeply ingrained malaise: the Soviets seemed on the march almost everywhere, the U.S. economy was in shambles, the nation was still reeling from the emotional scars of the Vietnam War as well as the resignation of a sitting president. The hits just kept on coming—a seemingly never-ending crisis, and what must have felt like a true “crisis of confidence.”