Should we fear this country?

By 2027, they will have a bit more than 1.4 billion people. Their economy is growing at 6%/year. They are becoming increasingly nationalistic and increasingly authoritarian. They have put more than a million Muslims into concentration camps, for no good reason. They have nuclear weapons, and occasionally threaten their neighbor with militaristic rhetoric.

Should we fear this country? If so, how should we respond?



34 Responses to “Should we fear this country?”

  1. Gravatar of Giovanni Tuffo Giovanni Tuffo
    27. December 2019 at 00:19

    No, we should not fear them.

  2. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    27. December 2019 at 03:05

    No we should not. Chinese history isn’t one of expansion outside ensuring it’s own Monroe doctrine. They have no interest in policing the world nor exporting world wide revolution nor does anyone honestly think that will change. As for how Chinese deals with criminals and internal social problems, that isn’t our business especially given at a third their size we have a higher absolute prison population and 6x it per capital so not much high ground their to speak.

  3. Gravatar of Dan Culley Dan Culley
    27. December 2019 at 04:43

    It’s difficult to know exactly what to do with India. Unlike China, notwithstanding growing authoritarianism, India still faces a significant lack of state capacity outside of major cities. Our best bet is probably targeted sanctions against individual political leaders who are involved in the absolute worst human rights violations such as stripping citizenship, along with providing foreign policy wins to other parties when they finally do win back power. The BJP is popular, but Congress has been popular in the past too. Ultimately democracy is likely to give it a better shot of finding its way to something long-term stable than China.

    To my mind, India’s greatest risk is to become like Argentina, where society is strong enough to prevent needed state capacity, but it does do in unproductive ways, with the result that the state can barely do anything but it is thuggish and exploitative wherever it does have some capacity. Hard to know exactly how to prevent that.

  4. Gravatar of Chris Chris
    27. December 2019 at 06:55

    @Peter – he is talking about India, not China.

  5. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    27. December 2019 at 07:20

    We should not fear India but we should be very concerned. We should encourage India not to pursue this authoritarian and xenophobic path, but that’s hard to do with a xenophobic authoritarian president.
    I think use of the term concentration camps should be reserved for the most serious crimes against humanity. I don’t think India’s actions rise to that level yet, but I do believe the term applies to China.

  6. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    27. December 2019 at 07:27

    I think “we”–i.e., the U.S. government–should not bully foreign governments. Instead, we/it should provide foreign governments with some competition, by allowing foreigners to come live in the U.S.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. December 2019 at 07:51

    Chris, I’m talking about both.

  8. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    27. December 2019 at 07:54

    I’m not suggesting that we bully India. I do think it is appropriate for us to speak out in favor of tolerance and equal rights.
    I agree with allowing more immigration from India and everywhere else, but there are 200 million Muslims in India. We would need to take in a lot of immigrants before Modi sensed it as competition.
    Plus, India is a successful democracy, which I think the US should support.

  9. Gravatar of BC BC
    27. December 2019 at 08:05

    Countries that are actually already authoritarian pose a greater threat than those that are merely becoming increasingly authoritarian.

    During the Cold War, we actually allied with many unsavory dictators, and some critics did view those policies as hypocritical. As it turned out, of course, we defeated the Soviets and, today, many of those dictatorships are now democracies.

    Before that, we also allied with the Soviets against the Nazis, which fewer people seem to think was hypocritical. That also resulted in the defeat of the Nazis and the aforementioned collapse of the Soviet Union.

    During the Cold War, we also courted the authoritarian Chinese as a check against the Soviet Union…

  10. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    27. December 2019 at 08:16


    Your never-ending attempts to whitewash China are so ridiculous.

    They have put more than a million Muslims into concentration camps, for no good reason.

    What is your source for this ludicrous statement? I’m sure you can easily prove it; otherwise you’d be a CCP propagandist who doesn’t even shy away from blatant lies.

    Or your confusion is now so severe that you’ve mistaken the Indian camps with the camps from your Chinese buddies.

    😂 😂 😂

    And don’t make excuses; you said the Indians “have put more than a million Muslims into concentration camps.” So where is the source for: Have put. Over a Million. Concentration camps.

    You can’t back away from this now.

    Such a big story must have been spread like wildfire in the western media, page after page, broadly covered days and weeks.

    I bet you say, “One article in The Economist, hidden behind a paywall. They figured it all out.”

    😂 😂 😂

  11. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    27. December 2019 at 08:48

    Roughly 2 million Indian Muslims have been stripped of their citizenship. India is actively building very large detention camps intended to house these people, but I think you are correct that “over a million” people have not been sent to those camps to date.
    Didn’t realize that you are also talking about China. I do not think it is constructive to fear China, but I view China as a bigger concern than India, partially because India is a relatively resilient democracy. It’s very possible that India will self-correct.

  12. Gravatar of PRC PRC
    27. December 2019 at 12:29

    I highly doubt either India or China will be growing at a 6% rate in 2027.
    You overestimate China and India.
    But we shouldn’t fear any country getting rich, as rich countries are tend to do less stupid things/amoral things than poor countries. China and India commit less human rights abuses than they did 20 years ago, and then they committed less human rights abuses than they did 20 years ago.

  13. Gravatar of PRC PRC
    27. December 2019 at 12:32

    The big fear, I would say, is that the two countries are not growing fast enough.
    India and China are beginning sharp slowdowns.
    US has been adding per capita GDP faster than both countries since the financial crisis, and we elected a nationalist, so who knows whats happening there.
    Though if US demographic changes keep happening, then that would easily end.

  14. Gravatar of A Throwaway A Throwaway
    27. December 2019 at 12:50

    You are a good blogger, but you fail to understand that different ethnic/racial groups are to differ on quality. This is due to cultural, and maybe genetic differences.

    The Muslims in China and India have higher crime rates than the Han or the Hindus, so they both took action. The Muslims also have higher birthrates, so the trajectory for both countries is unsustainable.

    You talk about nationalism in the US, but the difference in crime rates between Blacks and Whites in the US is night and day, with Blacks having 1000% higher crime rates than Whites.
    Since the Whites are becoming a minority, and Blacks stand to gain political power, it is no wonder that Trump won.

    People like you, who endlessly propose higher immigration from people from Africa, are the problem in this case.

    I have an honest question for you. If there are two groups in a country, one X and one Y. X has a much higher crime rate than Y, should we let X’s share of the population rise, and Y’s to fall? Would you find it morally permissible to use policy to stop that?

    I know you would say no, but you have spent all your life living in a Majority White, high IQ country, while I spent a good chunk of my childhood growing up in Northern South Africa. It is horrible to live in a low IQ area of a low IQ country, so I understand why China and India do this, I hope one day you do as well.

  15. Gravatar of PRC PRC
    27. December 2019 at 12:54

    Change to my last comment, I meant that demographic changes would end White Nationalism, but am not so sure the impact on the economy. Probably positive so far I would say, though as the son of immigrants I am biased.

  16. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    28. December 2019 at 01:25

    PRC: “US has been adding per capita GDP faster than both countries since the financial crisis.”

    GDP per capita average since 2009:

    China 8%
    India 7%
    U.S. 1%

  17. Gravatar of DF DF
    28. December 2019 at 04:03

    Yes of course we should fear them.

    We should fear them even more to the extent that they stifle domestic dissent. And to the extent historically they have been an imperialist power. And to the extent they believe their culture is superior to others. And to the extent they are expanding their military and increasing their espionage activities. And to the extent they have a chip on their shoulder about perceived historical wrongs. And to the extent they desire racial and ideological homogeneity from their citizens. And to the extent they believe collective punishment is acceptable. And to the extent they advance a vision of the internet which is state controlled. And to the extent they champion mass surveillance. And to the extent they bar the international press from investigating within their borders.

  18. Gravatar of PRC PRC
    28. December 2019 at 09:32

    You get something wrong. In absolute terms, the US is growing faster than China on a PPP per capita basis
    Countries don’t exactly grow in exponential terms, but their growth is characterized in exponential terms for simplicity sake.

  19. Gravatar of PRC PRC
    28. December 2019 at 10:12

    One more thing Todd,
    Whether absolute or relative growth is more important is dependent on the marginal benefit of one extra dollar for developing countries than developed countries.
    If the marginal benefit is higher for developing countries, than relative growth matters more.
    If the marginal benefit is equal or higher for developed countries, then absolute growth matters more.
    So I guess that it would be higher for developing countries, so I guess you might be right.
    Then again, I dont really know, we don’t know how to measure happiness or utility subjectively.

  20. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    30. December 2019 at 06:52

    The term “Indian Muslims” is ambiguous. Do you mean Muslim, by birth or practice, that is a citizen of India? Or such a person, illegally staying in India? Terms and words matter.

  21. Gravatar of Philip Crawford Philip Crawford
    30. December 2019 at 07:51

    We should help them produce more electricity in a way that produces less pollution.

    Micro nuclear advancements would help everyone.

  22. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    30. December 2019 at 12:34

    Roughly 2 million Indian Muslims have been stripped of their citizenship.

    Bob, I have not read all everything on this subject, but the articles I’ve seen said something else: Modi gave citizenship to a lot of minorities for the first time. He has exempted certain Muslims from this law, because he considers them illegal immigrants. So that would be different from what you write, and also different from certain framings in the media.

    As far as the camps are concerned, I have read about one specific camp that has room for about 1000 people. This camp seems to be almost finished and its purpose seems to be extradition. That’s unpleasant enough, but consider that Scott claims something completely different.

    Scott, where is your evidence by the way? Oh sorry, I forgot you are a LIAR.

    Bob, the camps are also not the core why China is so dangerous. North Korea also has many camps, but it is not particularly dangerous for the world. The problem in the case of China is its extremely authoritarian regime COMBINED with a very serious possibility of being a world power. China already interferes almost everywhere. There is hardly a country where China does not already have its fingers in the pie. This combination is why China is so extremely dangerous. Many Americans are simply extremely naïve (and uninformed) in this respect.

    Otherwise I agree with you: India is a democracy, not comparable to China. Of course, India can still develop very negatively (nobody can predict that), but currently they are no comparison to China.

    The opposition in India is against the camps and they say this very loudly.

    Compare that to China, where there is no opposition at all. They even persecute foreign critics mercilessly and with such absurd, and brutal, and childish methods, it really is mindboggling. Everyone who defends this regime is either paid by the regime and/or is really as naïve and ignorant as they pretend to be.

  23. Gravatar of michele michele
    30. December 2019 at 23:06

    It is irrelevant. A country has the right to carry out its affairs as they deem fit, so long as those laws do not violate any universal rights.

    Locking people up for breaking the law is not a violation of human rights. If it were, the USA would be the worlds biggest offender.

    Brinkmanship is not a crime.
    Economic growth is not a crime. But if you want to lower their growth rate, its very easy. Stop outsourcing the tech and call center industry.

    Jobs that could go to American Programmers are not being sent abroad for $10 an hour, in what has become the latest effort to offshore an entire industry.

    The real fear is that our economic policies are wrong, outdated, and as a result we are losing wealth at an astonishing pace. If we spent less time worrying about India, and more time worrying about our country, we’d be a lot better off.

  24. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    31. December 2019 at 05:44

    I have no idea what we should do about India, but we certainly should fear what is going on their because Modi is a popularly elected leader. I suspect that his policies regarding Muslims are genuinely popular, whereas I doubt that ordinary Chinese folks care at all about what is happening in Xinjiang. And there is reason to think that China’s leadership will learn the right kind of lessons from Xinjiang. Namely that repression is economically costly, further isolates the repressed group, and drives people away from the area being repressed. Reports are starting to come out from China that economic activity is way down in Xinjiang, and that Han Chinese are leaving the province in droves as all of the security measures are quite a burden on doing business, plus imprisoning lots of people leads to a lot fewer employees and customers. While they are continuing with the re-education camps, I doubt that they will try to do anything similar elsewhere, viewing the whole effort as somewhat misguided. I suspect that part of Beijing’s restraint in regards to the Hong Kong protests is influenced by their disappointment in the results of the actions taken in Xinjiang.

  25. Gravatar of A Throwaway A Throwaway
    31. December 2019 at 09:46

    Scott has standard boilerplate views on Racial politics, probably cause he has to toe the line all his life in academia, and listened to no dissident views.
    If the media say that Modi is putting Muslims in concentration camps, then that is what he believes, even though there is no evidence for such nonsense.

  26. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    1. January 2020 at 05:57

    My default position is we should strongly root for and want growth to expand everywhere. We should fear the failure of others, not their success. I assume you want readers to think through why we supposedly fear China and not India. My view is Xi and cronies are dangerous power mongers. This does not mean we should want war, etc.. Of course we do not want that. But at least you and me and all of us can mock our presidents, without going to jail. Personally, I like our style of Constitutional Government. That is why Japan and Germany, for example, no longer pose visible threats. India has not yet declared their leader a Magical Thinker like China has. Ergo, I do not fear India—-but am watchful and skeptical of Xi and company.

  27. Gravatar of Dave Schuler Dave Schuler
    1. January 2020 at 06:39

    Does it make a difference whether the country has a tradition of liberal democracy and the rule of law?

  28. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    1. January 2020 at 15:42

    Fear in what sense? The US is protected, as always, by two enormous moats — the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It dominates its own hemisphere effortlessly. That is not going to change.

    India is an Indian Ocean player. It is still well behind China economically. Though its institutional structure is almost certainly more resilient to shocks and a better long term bet than China as its process of modernisation does not threaten its political structures. Modi has given the BJP a modernising nationalism.

    India’s biggest strategic problem is that it is next to Pakistan (the Kashmir mess is a mostly consequence of that), which of all the (currently) democracies is the biggest mess, internally and externally. (What can you say of a country whose “at home” cricket matches are held in another country?)

    India is far more of a strategic opportunity for the US than a problem, and that is not at all likely to change.

    The fall of the Soviet Union was a huge trauma for the Beijing regime. The Beijing regime wishes to extend its influence so that no external players or interactions can threaten its domestic dominance. That is not murderously territorial in the way lebensraum was. But it is, in some ways, even more unlimited an aim. (The heir to Mao accusing the US of “exporting revolution” is hilarious at one level, chilling at another.)

    This is essentially a containment problem. You play the same game as last time. Build alliances, both military and anti-subversion, and seek to wait the problem out.

    It will be hard, because the Chinese economy is much more dynamic, there are considerable Chinese diasporas that the Beijing Regime seeks to use. On the other hand, it has less intellectual/ideological cachet than Revolutionary Marxism once did.

    (Russia is not going to be help. It agrees with China about domestic stability and has Siberia to be nervous about if relations with China sour too much.)

    The US’s problem is that (1) its example is subversive and (2) China is a rising Power whose path to modernisation undermines its political structure.

    The second factor, on its own, precipitated The Great War, as (2) affected all the key dynastic Powers (Hohenzollern Germany, Romanov Russia, Habsburg Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire) and the interaction between the first three generated the War. Adding (1) to (2) what makes the next few decades potentially very dangerous.

    Meanwhile, European politics are in enormous flux as the working class defects from social democratic Parties to national populist ones and the US is enormously polarised as the Democrats remain (as ever) the Party of Race (having switched from keeping African-Americans down to “those bad whites are out to get you but voting for us makes you a good white” as the only way to keep its coalition together). The Democrats remain viable in the way European social democratic Parties increasingly aren’t because of African-American bloc voting and the US being a legislated Two Party system. But the underlying polarising factors are still there.

    Dealing with intense polarisation within and trying to contain China without. Fun times.

  29. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    1. January 2020 at 15:49

    BTW, the way to lower the polarisation within the US is the same strategy as worked last time (early C20th). Remove migration as a stress point. This is much better strategy than the time before (1850s), where migration stress triggered Civil War over the already existing fracture line of slavery. (The Southern States left because they were going to be increasingly outvoted in the Union. Why? Because of now-there-are steamships and railways migration to the free States.)

    The evidence that migration stresses societies is all around us. But it does not fit with the homo economicus model, so remains weirdly invisible to so much of the debate over migration.

    After all, Jewish migration to Palestine brought in so much capital, that Arab wages went up and Arab migration was attracted to Palestine. It was textbook migration-with-capital-encourages-economic-benefits-even-to-domestic-workers. Yet it turned out, economic gain was not everything. Who knew?

    It is almost as we are group living primates who care about status, including group status. Or that we are the cultural species who identifies with a culture and whose networks are generally within a culture. Or that the less human capital you have, the more your local networks matter and the more their disruption is a serious cost.

    And yes, I have read Bryan Caplan’s book Open Borders. I was very impressed and persuaded not at all. Knew too much history to be persuaded.

  30. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    1. January 2020 at 15:56

    It would possibly help if Woke IT Capitalism and European governments stopped giving the Beijing regime pointers on how to suppress opinions online.

    Also, a possible lowering tension strategy would be to eschew any promotion of democracy outside US borders. Be fine with cosying up to authoritarian rulers and make it clear aspirants for democracy are strictly on their own. A sort of isolationist retreat-from-democracy-evangelism appeasement.

    There would still, however, be the example of being rich-and-democratic. The US subverts as much as by existing as any (notoriously inconsistent) policy of promoting democracy. Having the US collapse into civil conflict would be economically bad for the Beijing regime, but strategically terrific.

    So, fun times.

  31. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    2. January 2020 at 15:22

    If the media say that Modi is putting Muslims in concentration camps, then that is what he believes, even though there is no evidence for such nonsense.


    I trust the media on this one (more or less, with the usual grain of salt), but keep in mind that Scott goes way way beyond what the media is saying. The media doesn’t lie so blatantly.

  32. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    2. January 2020 at 18:59

    @Lorenzo the Australian

    The US doesn’t need to copy it’s Cold War strategy for dealing with China. All of China’s neighbors have as a core national interest remaining free from Chinese domination. The US just needs to convince China not to start any wars, which shouldn’t be hard, because the CCP’s elites aren’t dumb and know that a war would be a huge risk for them to take, because nothing but an economic depression does more to erode popular support for the elite than an unnecessary war.

  33. Gravatar of Larry A Larry A
    14. January 2020 at 12:19

    Only if the country is part of the Triad USA, England, isreal

  34. Gravatar of Fran Fran
    14. January 2020 at 15:26

    What neighbor does India threaten? The implication is this neighbor doesn’t deserve threats? I don’t think America should fear anyone but we can work with other countries.

    The big problem in India is massive corruption. They need to erase that problem in order to become INCREDIBLE INDIA. India has massive infrastructure problems. They need to educate the masses of people with at least a high school education. If India would concentrate on the problems within its borders it would be a powerhouse and I am sure that concerns some countries. Indians should concentrate on making India the great nation it can be rather than running away from the problem to reside in other countries. This is causing brain drain.

Leave a Reply