【深度】美国在崩溃?三类变化!两条证据!一点启示!

2021-01-13 07:40

1月6日“川粉”占领美国国会的事件爆发后,1989年出版的《美国反对美国》一书在网购书店里的价格涨到了18000元(约2900美元),是原价的3600倍。在书序中,谈到为何要取这个“奇怪而又颇为费解的书名”时,作者写道:“用意在于表明,美国不是一个简单的均质的整体,用一句话就可以打发掉的。”他还谈到,有的人把美国看得一无是处,但现实中的美国会反对这样的“美国”;有的人把美国想象的十全十美,那么,现实中的美国同样会反对这样的“美国”。他还讲,越是深入地研究美国,越容易发现美国社会的这种内在的矛盾。

相信所有人都会佩服作者的睿智与远见。而人们对这本书求购之心的背后,还有一股中国社会新冒出来的舆论潮。

1月12日,Global Times “变局“专栏的版面截图
有中国网友对当下的美国两党之争调侃道,为什么美国不能有两个总统,或者像中国这样一个当总统,一个当书记?有的则说,可以有两个美国,一个叫USA,一个叫USB;还有的干脆说,朝鲜可以有南朝鲜、北朝鲜;苏丹可有南苏丹、北苏丹;美国也可以有南美国、北美国。
这些调侃终归是网民戏言。相比于20多年前在美国流行的“中国崩溃论”是专业学者有理有据的论证,当下在中国流行的“美国崩溃论”并没有系统的研究论据。
笔者相信,美国短期内不会崩溃。不过,按照瑞士学者安德烈亚斯·威默《国家建构:聚合与崩溃》一书的论据逻辑----政治整合(political integration)和国家认同(national identification)是国家建构的两面----来看,美国再这么闹下去,国家崩溃的可能性并不是零。
至少有两条鲜为人知的论据:一是围绕美国政治核心地“国会”的暴力正愈演愈烈。1856年,美国南卡罗来纳州众议员普雷斯顿·布鲁克斯因废奴意见不合,用棍殴打了马萨诸塞州参议员查尔斯·萨姆纳。1915年,哈佛大学教授埃里克·明特尔以“呼唤和平”为名用炸弹炸了参议院接待室,所幸无人身亡。1932年,约2.5万美国一战老兵围堵国会数周,多人死亡。1954年3月1日,四名波多黎各分离主义分子闯入众议院,开枪打伤五名议员。1983年国会大厦北翼爆炸。1998年一位袭击者持枪闯入美国国会,两人死亡。
很明显,1月6日国会事件比历史上任何一起都更极端、规模更大、人员更多、影响更恶劣,且与现任总统的煽动相关。日益激烈化的国会暴力的背后,是美国日趋衰退的政治整合力。
据调查,2014年,趋于极端的民主、共和两党议员分别达到94%、92%,比20年前上升了24、28个百分点。对方赞同的,通常就是我方反对的。美国两党已从共识政治滑坠为对抗政治。已经有人猜测,对抗或许会演化为新的内战。
对此,2006年纽约大学教授罗纳德·德沃金在其《民主是可能的吗?》一书就表达过失望:“我已提供了很多理由证明这是不可能的。”尽管他承认,在过去的两个世纪,拥有良好意愿、智慧和雄心的美国人已经给予世界很多现在仍然是最好的事物,但美国正处于历史中的一段特别令人沮丧和危险的时期。不知道德沃金教授现在会不会更沮丧,或者更平和地接受这一切?

第二条论据是美国人对民主政治认同感的急剧下降。问卷调查显示,出生在1930年代的人,有74%认为“生活在民主国家是’必要的’”,而1940年代、1950年代、1960年代、1970年代、1980年代的美国人分别只有62%、58%、50%、43%、31%。年龄越小,越没有觉得民主是必要的。 

另一项调查更有趣,1995年、2011年分别问了65岁以上、45-64岁、35岁-44岁、25岁-34岁、16-24岁的美国人,认为“民主是坏的制度”的比例分别从5%上升到了13%,6%升到15%、7%升到17%、10%升到22%、13%升到24%。否认民主体制的人数在不断增多。 

长期以来,中国人对美国存在着浪漫主义的想象。人们往往抽取出美国的积极面,比如民众的善良、社会的有序、经济的增长、种族的和谐、国家的崛起等等,将原因与内核都归于民主的变量。现在,民主在衰老,美国在退步。“美国反对美国”状态变得更加恶劣。 
特朗普折腾了美国四年,令世界大跌眼镜。如果解剖一下当下美国的质变,会发现美国社会、经济与政治制度的各种失灵与混乱,是有深层原因的。
现在的美国早已不再是1789年华盛顿当选首任总统的美国了,也不是1979年中美刚建交时的那个美国,甚至与2008年拜登当选副总统时的美国都大变样了。 

2020年12月7日,Global Times “变局“专栏的版面截图
第一,美国社会结构变了。1950年时,白人占美国总人口的87.5%;2019年时已下降至56%;2050年将至49%,白人会成为“少数族裔中的多数”。种族结构的变化,也反映在语言交往上。不要以为美国人就讲英语。2015年调查,美国移民中只有53%美国人讲英语,26.4%不太会讲或完全不讲英语。2017年移民中,讲英语的只有17%。笔者曾去的南加州、德州、亚利桑州的县郡,很多地方半数以上人口不说英语,而是说西班牙语等其他语言。
社会结构的质变,使得美国价值理念的分化。自由民主法治等看上去高大上的价值理念,在不同的人群里,有着不同的理解甚至冲突,此前自诩的“种族大熔炉”制度不再有效。
第二,美国经济结构变了。1998年-2008年美国GDP增长47%,但美国制造业仅增长5%。这与半个世纪前支撑美国1/3劳动力市场的制造业完全不一样。美国是越来越由金融业“食利阶层”、法律业“纠纷阶层”支撑的国度。产业与收入结构的质变,导致美国变得越来越不平等。富者愈富,穷者愈穷。在疫情期,美国81%的住宅都有还债压力,11%的按揭违约率甚至超过了2008年国际危机。40%的非裔和30%西裔学生在学校停课期间没有设备接受在线教学,而白人学生只有10%。
经济结构的质变,导致美国利益诉求的分化。从社保到税收,从医保到移民,几乎任何一条政策在美国几乎都会产生社会争议。经济政策变得短视,政策执行大打折扣,更糟糕的是,政策产生了“钟摆”效应,难以形成足够的持久力。
第三,美国政治结构变了。美国当前的政治“极化”现象越来越严重。民主党与共和党相互“极度讨厌”的人数比率从25年前16.5%上升到了当前的80%以上。你赞同,我就反对,令美国成为一个“内耗器”,或说美国人与美国人之间正在爆发一场“国内冷战”(cold civil war)。美国发动的冷战早已爆发,只是不针对中国,而是自己人打自己人。政治内耗让美国人信心急剧下降。“身为美国人”而自豪的人群由90%以上(1990年代)下降到63%(2020年6月);认为美国是最伟大的国家的美国人降至24%,认为其他国家比美国更伟大的美国人升至21%(2019年)。
政治结构的质变,导致美国日常运行的分化。主导美国国家日常执行的不是同一个目标、同一套标准,而是无休止的争论、批判 、指责、推诿。
美国在变,中国也变了。2011年中国的制造业超过美国,2013年中国货物贸易总量超过美国,2019年中国的专利数超过了美国。一切顺利的话,2020年中国有望超过美国,成为全球最大消费市场。2030年前后,中国会成为第一大经济体。
未来5-10年,中美之间要重新认识不一样的彼此。美国要认识到自身的质变,更要认识到中国是不可遏制的。美国要适应一个机制体制与意识形态完全不同的中国。中国也要学会与一个质变了的美国打交道。
由此看,中美之间需要更多地立足于长远重新进行相互认知。美国对中国的认知逻辑,仍基于上世纪中叶哈佛大学教授费正清《美国与中国》一书;中国对美国的认知逻辑,仍限于帝国霸权的基本框架。
不过,多数中国人现在对美国的认识仍是复合的,既相信美国在相当长的时间内仍会是最强的国家,也认为美国已不再是先前那个令人尊重的美国。
在中国网络舆论中流行的“美国崩溃论”,对中国自身也有启示。退步的美国说明了一个重要道理:制度不可能一劳永逸的。不改革,任何制度都有生物式的退化与衰老。

两百年前,法国人托克维尔为认知刚刚建国的美国,游历美国各州,写下了《论美国的民主》;半个多世纪前,美国人本尼迪克特为认知二战后的日本,皓首穷经,写下了《菊与刀》。当下的中国思想界,是否应有一头扎进美国社会写下新时代下的美国名篇,这是相当值得期待的事情。大变局时代,思想者大有可为。

以下为英文版

Clash of two Americas becomes more evident

By Wang Wen

Photo: AFP

After US President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, some Chinese netizens have joked about the US ongoing partisan struggle: Why can't the US have two presidents? Others said there can be two United States: USA and USB, just like South Korea and North Korea.

After all, those are netizens' remarks. More than 20 years ago when the "China collapse" theory prevailed in the US, it was a "well-founded" argument by professional scholars, while the "US collapse" theory in China now is not yet supported by systematic research.

I don't believe that the US is going to collapse anytime soon. Swiss sociologist Andreas Wimmer said in his book Nation Building: Why Some Countries Come Together While Others Fall Apart that political integration and national identification are two sides to the coin of nation building. Given such logic, the possibility that the US will collapse cannot be ruled out if it goes on in chaos.

There are at least two little-known arguments. One is that the violence surrounding US Congress is getting worse. 

In 1856, US Representative Preston Brooks from South Carolina used a walking cane to attack Senator Charles Sumner from Massachusetts over the issue of slavery. In 1915, Eric Muenter, a Harvard professor, blew up the reception room of the US Senate chamber in the Capitol building under the name of "a call for peace." No one was injured. In 1932, some 25,000 World War I veterans besieged the Capitol for weeks, many of them died. On March 1, 1954, four Puerto Rican separatists broke into the House of Representatives and wounded five members of Congress. In 1983, the north wing of the Capitol building was blown up. In 1998, a gunman entered the Capitol, killing two police officers.

It is clear that the Capitol chaos of January 6 was more extreme and devastating with larger scale than any one in history, and it was tied to the incitement of a sitting president.Behind the rising violence in Congress lies the US' waning political unity.

According to a survey of the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of Democratic and 92 percent of Republican lawmakers became more ideologically consistent in 2014, and, as a result, further from one another. By contrast, in 1994, the two parties could come to better agreements on matters and had overlapping ideas. 

What one party agrees with is usually what the other party is against. The two parties have slipped from the politics of consensus to the politics of confrontation. There is already speculation that the confrontation could degenerate into a new civil war.

Second, the Americans' sense of identity with democracy has declined remarkably. Yascha Mounk, a Harvard lecturer, and Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, jointly published a study on attitudes toward democracy in 2016. 

It shows that nearly 75 percent of those born in the 1930s in the US think democracy is essential, while only around 30 percent for those born in the 1980s. 

Another survey was more interesting. When asked whether "having a democratic political system" is a "bad" or "very bad" way to "run this country" in 1995 and 2011 respectively, the percentage of Americans believing this idea rose in every age group.

Nonetheless, Chinese people have a long and romantic vision of the US. They tend to attribute many positive sides of this country, such as the public's kindness, social order, economic growth, racial harmony and the rise of the country, to democracy. 

But at present, democracy is aging and the US is going backward. The clash of two Americas has become even more evident. The majority of Chinese people now have comprehensive knowledge of the US. They believe this country will continue to be the most powerful country in the long term. Meanwhile, they think the US will no longer deserve much respect as it once enjoyed.

To Chinese citizens, the linchpin is not the "US collapse" theory, but a lesson instead on US shortcomings. The US' decline illustrates an important principle that no systems can work well forever. Without reforms, any system will degrade biologically.

US: qualitative changes, dysfunctional systems

By Wang Wen

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

The way in which President Donald Trump messed up the US during his four-year presidency has clearly shocked the entire world. If we take a closer look at the current qualitative changes that the US is going through, we might find that there are deeper reasons why the country's social, economic and political systems have become dysfunctional, and why nothing can be done now to repair Trump's crazy acts. 

The US today is not the same America as it was in 1789 when George Washington was elected the first president. Nor is the same as it was in 1979 when China and the US established diplomatic relations. It is even far from the US of 2008 when Joe Biden was elected vice president.

Why? First of all, the structure of US society has changed. The percentage of white people in the entire US population has fallen from 87.5 percent in 1950 to 56 percent in 2019. By 2050, it will be 49 percent, and the white people will be "the majority-minority." Qualitative changes in the social structure are impacting American values as a whole. The self-styled ethnic "melting pot" system is no longer effective in the US as there are different or even conflicting understandings of those seemingly lofty values, such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law, among different groups of people. 

Second, the structure of the US economy has also changed. The country's GDP grew by 47 percent between 1998 and 2008, but only 5 percent in the manufacturing sector. This is a far cry from half a century ago when manufacturing supported one-third of the US labor market. The US is becoming a country increasingly supported by the financial "rentier" and "litigious" class. The qualitative changes in industry and income structures have led to rising inequality in the US. Amid the epidemic, 81 percent of US homes were under pressure to repay mortgages and rents. A delinquency rate of 11 percent even surpassed the financial crisis figures in 2008. Roughly 40 percent of African-American and 30 percent of Latino students had no access to online instruction during school closures, compared with 10 percent of white students. Such changes to the economic structure are leading to a divergence of collective demands in the US, ranging from social security to taxes, healthcare and immigration. 

Economic policies have become short-sighted and hard to implement. Even worse, these policies have created a "pendulum" effect that is hard to sustain.

The third major change in the US is related to its political structure. The country has become an "internal consumption machine," as its current political "polarization" is getting more and more serious. The proportion of Democrats and Republicans who dislike each other "extremely" has risen from 16.5 percent a quarter of a century ago to more than 80 percent today. We can also say there is a "cold civil war" going on among the American people. In a Gallup poll in June, American people's confidence had sharply dropped as only 63 percent of the Americans felt proud of being Americans, compared to more than 90 percent in the 1990s.Changes in the political structure have caused problems to daily operations of the US government - endless arguments, criticism, finger pointing and prevarication have taken dominance over seeking a common goal with the same standards. 

Meanwhile, China is also changing. It overtook the US in terms of manufacturing in 2011, in total trade in goods in 2013, and in the number of patents in 2019. If everything goes well, China is expected to surpass the US as the world's largest consumer market by the end of 2020. Around 2030, China will become the world's largest economy.

In the next five to 10 years, China and the US will need to have a renewed understanding of each other again. The US should see its own qualitative changes, but also realize that China is unstoppable. The US should adapt to a China with a completely different mechanism, system and ideology. China will also have to learn how to deal with a changed America.

China and the US need to re-understand each other on a long-term basis. The US' understanding of China is still based on the book The United States and China, written by American sinologist and Harvard history professor John King Fairbank in the mid 20th century. And China's understanding of the US is still limited to the basic framework of imperial hegemony.

About two centuries ago, to understand the newly established US, French sociologist and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to various states in the US and wrote his four-volume Democracy in America. About half a century ago, to understand Japan after WWII, American anthropologist Ruth Benedict wrote her famous study of Japan The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. 

Today, we need some Chinese intellectuals to dig into American society and achieve a similar monumental work on the US in the new era. This is something worth looking forward to.


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