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Is China better at capitalism than America?
Conventional wisdom holds that Uncle Sam's free-market model is the best in the world. But China's growing clout is causing economists to think twice
 
While both the U.S. and China engage in massive government spending, China's funds tend to go toward infrastructure projects like high-speed rail, while America's go to entitlement programs.
While both the U.S. and China engage in massive government spending, China's funds tend to go toward infrastructure projects like high-speed rail, while America's go to entitlement programs.
Imaginechina/Corbis

The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union seemingly put to rest any doubts about the supremacy of America's capitalist system. Guided by the magic hand of the market, the U.S. had created more prosperity than any other country in history, while the Soviet system crumbled under the weight of its creaky, bureaucratic machine. But the subsequent rise of China, whose economy combines aspects of capitalism and central planning, has thrust the U.S. model under new scrutiny. While Uncle Sam continues to limp his way out of the Great Recession, China has hardly broken its stride. Is China's brand of capitalism simply better than America's?

Yes. China is winning the future: China is smoking us, says Zachary Karabell at The Daily Beast. Both the U.S. and China engage in a lot of government spending, but China puts its money into infrastructure, transportation, alternate energy, and housing, all of which "will yield long-term benefits for the Chinese economy." The U.S., on the other hand, spends on "consumption, safety nets, and the military," which comprise a shakier foundation for economic growth. The "sclerotic inability" of the U.S. government to "productively invest for the common future" is the reason why its "form of capitalism has ceased to fulfill hopes, dreams, and needs of far too many people."
"China's not the big trade cheat harming America's domestic economy"

Nonsense. China's system is a pale imitation of ours: It's fashionable to proclaim that China "is eating our lunch," says Ian Bremmer at Reuters, but it's all "baloney." Just look at the way Chinese manufacturers "copycat everything foreign, from cars to watches to iPhones to social networks." The Chinese system will never "foster the entrepreneurial spirit" that makes these innovations possible, because the drearily unimaginative state is the "majority owner" of the economy. China has been able to "shoehorn a crude version of a beautiful financial system into its state-controlled economy and get some good results." But it will never be able to replicate the breakthroughs that are the hallmarks of a true free-market system.
"Chinese capitalism is just another knockoff"

Either way, the U.S. can learn from China: At every turn, America sees "ideological hang-ups standing in the way of what everyone realizes must get done" in investment and education, says Michael Schuman at TIME. In that sense, we could learn a lot from China, which dispassionately puts "pragmatism and problem solving over ideology." That's the Chinese model America should adopt: "Dropping the political bickering and ideological grandstanding and doing whatever is necessary to create prosperity."
"Can Asian-style capitalism save the West?"

 

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