The Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China recently published a report by associate research fellow Chen Chenchen about the wealth and future policy of US President Donald Trump's cabinet. The document can help us understand why the latest US National Security Strategy labels China as a main rival power.
According to the report, the proportion of business elites in the Trump administration is not significant compared to former governments. But based on the scale of their wealth, Trump's initial cabinet members have much more wealth than any former cabinet.
Trump's cabinet came to power when the US saw its largest rich-poor gap in history. A report by the Federal Reserve in September showed that the top 1 percent richest US families own 39 percent of national wealth, growing 2.7 percent from 2013.
Normally, people expect the US government to adopt policies that facilitate fair income distribution. But the Trump administration obviously values benefits more and emphasizes competition, due to the wealth of his team and the traditional values represented by US capitalists.
Capital always advocates seeking strength by competition. This has formed the foundation of US values that make the country the superpower. It is also the reason why the US can be more resilient to the widening rich-poor gap than Europe.
Advocating competition is the essence of the tradition of Anglo Saxon Protestantism, the core value system of the US. Trump's stress on competition sides with the conservatives' recall for tradition.
In my recent trip to the US, I learned that the most of middle-class who voted for Trump think that US strength has declined because of overwhelming stress on fairness.
Of course, the current US society is divided and not all people support laying priority on competition. Trump administration's effort to increase America's strength will be restrained by problems caused by the growing income gap.
But Trump won't change his strategy of emphasizing competition because of domestic affairs, especially his policy toward China. Because implementing America First must present a competitor and China is just this kind of rival the Americans consider powerful.
In the future, China will face a US that all the more stresses competition. China has never been under such heavy pressure of competition from the US since it adopted the reform and opening-up policy. Shift in US strategy will also cause more developed countries to pay attention to competition with China and it will lead to difficulties in China's rise. It will be an overall competition that involves national governance, finance and foreign policy and talent.
It is a challenge that China has to face such competition with the US when it needs to facilitate its distribution system. China needs to decide whether it would value profits over fairness, raise salaries, increase taxes, all this while competing with the US.
There is no absolute balance between fairness and profits in any system, and the price of stressing competition is damaging fairness. In fact, the competition between China and the US involves the extent to which of the countries can bear the growing income gap more, in other words, which can maintain the operation of a social security system acceptable to the public while causing as little damage to competitiveness as possible. This entails sophisticated art of governance.
There is a popular saying that as long as China can manage its own affairs, it does not need to be afraid of the challenges coming from the US. But with globalization continuing to develop, China as the world's second-largest economy cannot close its doors to the world and only deal with its affairs.
After waking up every morning, we must imagine what competition will emerge today, and which of it can be solved by cooperation and the one that should be faced bravely.