Xi Jinping China
(Image: AP via AAP/Ng Han Guan)

What if the new era of great-power competition was over before it had even begun?

Many of today’s fears about a multigeneration conflict with Beijing rest on linear extrapolations of yesteryear’s data, harking back to a time when China appeared on track to supplant the United States as the world’s largest economy. Yet more and more signs point to a China that is fully unprepared for the competition with the US it once sought.

China’s economy, long in decline, is now in freefall -- thanks to President Xi Jinping’s mismanagement. Case in point: this year the US economy is forecast to grow faster than China’s for the first time since 1976, with strong indications that China has entered a prolonged era of slow growth. More surprising is that Xi, in an attempt to stabilise China’s finances, has largely abandoned his ambitious plans to overhaul China’s growth model, choosing instead to double down on the very economic policies that got China into today’s economic bind in the first place.