Eric Li’s flawed arguments in a recent NYT Op Ed, “How Trump Is Good for China”

Eric Li, who made his name in the US with a TED talk in which he praised China’s political system, published an Op Ed in the New York Times on Monday, “How Trump Is Good for China.”

I do not object, as some have, to the Times publishing his one-sided piece because its Op Ed Page has favored strong “attack” columns since its inception under Harrison Salisbury in the early 1970s, and it’s good to know what a significant body of people in China are said to be thinking.

I liked Li’s idea of trying to find a “silver lining” by turning the vice of Trump’s election into the virtue of improved Sino-American relations, but his arguments are deeply flawed, as many have pointed out. Two aspects especially struck me.

One is his forceful summary of the ailments of American society and politics while totally ignoring the very serious challenges confronting a China that is gradually weakening, not only economically but also politically and socially.

The second aspect is related to the first. He completely ignores Xi Jinping’s increasingly severe suppression of internationally–recognized civil and political rights. Instead, Li seeks to convey the impression that those inside and outside China who protest Xi’s oppression are tools of aggressive American cultural imperialism rather than reflecting widely-shared universal, civilized values. Even the Times op ed editors, despite their preference for controversy, might have questioned these glaring defects.