The Hundred-Year Marathon

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The Hundred-Year Marathon

The author is a deputy editor of financial news team at the JoongAng Ilbo.



On October 4, 1954, the United States was astonished as Sputnik 1 — the world’s first artificial satellite — entered the Earth’s orbit with a Soviet flag. The United States’ pride was hurt as it fell behind in the space race: fear spread. Americans were afraid that a missile with nuclear warheads could be fired at the United States anytime. It was the Sputnik shock.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a product of that shock. The nation’s pride was restored as Apollo 11 made a manned flight and landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. That concluded the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. But history repeats itself: after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the United States focused on the Middle East. China did not miss its chance and recklessly expanded. In 2015, China revealed an ambition to become a high-tech manufacturing power and announced Made-in-China 2025, a blueprint to nurture 10 strategic industries, including robot engineering, artificial intelligence (AI), communications equipment and aeronautics and space. China challenged the United States in fields that it was leading. It birthed Sputnik shock, this time from China.

China claims that it is a strategy to restructure industries, but the United States suspected ulterior motives. The goal for Made-in-China 2025 is year 2049, the centennial anniversary of the communist revolution and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Michael Pillsbury of Hudson Institute pointed this out in his book “The Hundred-Year Marathon.”

“I learned that these hawks had been advising Chinese leaders, beginning with Mao Zedong, to avenge a century of humiliation and aspired to replace the United States as the economic, military and political leader of the world by the year 2049. This plan became known as the Hundred-Year Marathon,” he wrote.

Under this pretext, Made-in-China 2025 is dangerous. The United States is stunned and fiercely attacks in the trade war with China. The United States’ offensive put the brakes on China’s Hundred-Year Marathon. China suggested modifying the Made-in-China 2025 strategies and controlling the pace in a gesture of reconciliation. The Thucydides Trap of a rising power colliding with an existing power to catastrophic ends was avoided.

It is unclear if China will actually give up on the Hundred-Year Marathon. But it became clear that it will have to overcome many more obstacles to reach the finish line. If China chooses Xi Jinping’s “striving for achievement” over Deng Xiaoping’s “keep a low profile,” China may again face humiliation. Ambition without sufficient competency is risky.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 17, Page 35
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