The opening story, "The Rise of a Fierce Yet Fragile Superpower", by Fareed Zakaria, draws up on Susan Shirk's comments about China being a "fragile superpower" (and elaborated upon at China Law Blog). Mr. Zakaria sees China's biggest problem as a weakening central government, evidenced by the low central tax collection. The weakness of Beijing allows the provinces to ignore orders form the central government which exacerbates the rich/poor gap, a gap that should not be too wide in an allegedly communist country. Zakaria suggests that a more transparent, responsive, and accountable government could function better in the new "more chaotic and empowered society."
That part of his paper was less convincing than the part he wrote about conflict between the US and China. Many "see the seeds of inevitable great-power conflict and perhaps even war" between the US and China, but Zakaria says that not all great powers are alike: "some ... have been like Nazi Germany and others like modern-day Germany and Japan." Also, the US replaced Britain without a war. Zakaria says that economic competition is inevitable, though, and the character of this conflict will depend upon policy choices. Zakaria quotes John Ikenberry as saying that since nuclear weapon's make great-power war suicidal, "Today's Western order, in short, is hard to overturn and easy to join".
Of course, this is all used by Zakaria to illuminate the argument of his essay: This "should be the year we craft a serious long-term China policy."
The next article is by Newsweek's Beinjing Bureau Chief, Melinda Liu. The article uses Ms. Liu's family history to frame the history of China over the past 30 years beginning with the restoration of full diplomatic relations between China and the US. Fun read.
This is followed by a short piece on various activists around China.
Next is an article on President George H.W. Bush's year in "Mao's China" in 1974-'75.
And, of course, there is the obligatory article on the Olympics. Well, wait a sec! There's only one article on the Olympics in here!?!?
In the final article, Mayor Michael Bloomberg poses China not as a threat, but as "An incredible opportunity". Mayor Bloomberg argues that as global economics is not a zero-sum game, a healthy Chinese economy is good for the US and good for the world. As such, he writes that we need the public infrastructure to prepare ourselves to compete in the global economy. But, the real purpose of this article come sout in the final paragraph, quoted in full:
This summer's Olympic games will give China a chance to showcase its impressive economic progress. But it will also remind the world that much work remains to be done in building a healthy society where differences of opinion--on politics, philosophy and faith--are respected as fundamental human rights. We live that lesson every day in New York, and as China may yet come to see, it is our greatest competitive advantage in the global economy.
I have written before that Americans really like their democracy and have deep problems thinking that any other form of government is desirable. We see that in this edition of Newsweek as the undercurrent in each article. But, there is not one article that outright bashes or debases China, or fear-mongers Americans into worries about Commies poisoning the brains of their children. The articles are well chosen, and damn near as pragmatic as a popular American periodical can get.