Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

China’s Crisis of Confidence

By Craig Singleton

13 Jun 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

A counter-intuitive analysis in Foreign Policy arguing that China is not on the rise, but in decline, and operating from a place of increasing weakness and domestic strife.

What if the new era of great-power competition was over before it had even begun? Many of today’s fears about a multigeneration conflict with Beijing rest on linear extrapolations of yesteryear’s data, harkening back to a time when China appeared on track to supplant the United States as the world’s largest economy. Yet more and more signs point to a China that is fully unprepared for the competition with the United States it once sought.

China’s economy, long in decline, is now in freefall—thanks to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s mismanagement. Case in point: This year, the U.S. economy is forecast to grow faster than China’s for the first time since 1976, with strong indications that China has entered a prolonged era of slow growth. More surprising is that Xi, in an attempt to stabilize China’s finances, has largely abandoned his ambitious plans to overhaul China’s growth model, choosing instead to double down on the very economic policies that got China into today’s economic bind in the first place.

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