Opinion: This decade belonged to China - and so will the next one

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft. In 2014, according to the World Bank’s international comparison program, the Chinese economy overtook that of the US to become the world’s largest, measured by purchasing power parity. This is the story, as pertaining to the past decade, of the most remarkable economic transformation in human history. Unsurprisingly the west is finding the phenomenon difficult to come to terms with, displaying a kaleidoscope of emotions from denial, dismissal and condemnation to respect, appreciation and admiration; though there is presently much more of the former than thelatter. The west believed that China would for long remain essentially defined by imitation, unable to match the west’s capacity for innovation. Shenzhen has come to rival Silicon Valley – while Huawei,Tencent and Alibaba can be counted in the same league as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon. Far from this being a product of copying, the Chinese are increasingly engagingingroundbreaking innovation: China accounted for almost half of all patent filings in the world last year. People living in a country growing at 10%perannumfor 35 years and between 6% and 8% for the past decade are used to rapid change and constant innovation. Perhaps the starkest demonstration of China’s growing influence has been the belt and road initiative – a global network of Chinese-financed highways, railways, ports and energy infrastructure, launched in 2013. With the present international system entering its twilight, the belt and road initiative can be seen as the embryo of a new order, not in the literal sense, but symbolically. At root the new US attitude is based on a fear that China represents a threat to its global hegemony, something that many Americansregard to be part of the country’s DNA. This fear has in part been stimulated by China’s increasingly proactive role on the global stage, most notably with the belt and roadinitiative,along with the formation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to which Britain was the first non-Asian signatory. The US’s increasing unwillingness to support the international system that it largely created – as seen in Trump’s attitude towards the World Trade Organization and Nato – marks a retreat.