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Opinion

Letter to China's new leader, Xi Jinping (+ video)

Dear Xi Jinping: Congratulations on your elevation to the top post in China. Many expect you to be the most powerful head of state in the world. But you face global citizens who are saying, 'enough is enough' when it comes to trade, human rights, and nationalism. Be forewarned.

By Richard A. D’Aveni / November 15, 2012

A huge screen shows a broadcast of China's new Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping speaking in Beijing's Great Hall of the People Nov. 15. Op-ed contributor Richard A. D'Aveni writes to Mr. Xi: 'If you push the citizens of the West farther, you will turn their simmering reservoir of goodwill into boiling hostility. They will not allow China to impoverish them in the next 10 years as they blindly did in the last 10.'

Vincent Yu/AP

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Hanover, N.H.

Dear General Secretary Xi:

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Commentary: Harvard Kennedy School Professor Anthony Saich explores the future of US-Chinese relations.

Congratulations on your elevation to the top post in China. If economic and strategic trends continue, you will lead China to an unprecedented peak in power and influence in the world.

Indeed, if your tenure extends two terms, until 2023, your country is expected to produce a gross domestic product of $40 trillion, 60 percent larger than the United States. Your middle class is expected to swell to a billion people, more than the combined populations of the US, Japan, Canada, and the leading European economic powers. Your country will probably even dominate in technologies ranging from biotechnology to renewable energy to lasers. Many expect you will be the most powerful head of state in the world.

But you face citizens around the globe who are saying, “Enough is enough.” First among them are the citizens of China. They’ve had enough corruption, income inequality, land expropriation, environmental ruin, human rights violations, and third-world-quality education and health care.

Second are the citizens of Western countries. They’ve had enough unfair trade, intellectual property theft, cyber espionage, bullying of foreign businesses in China, threats against the sovereignty of neighbors, lost jobs, declining benefits, and more.

Some people say you are going to have your hands full with your own citizens’ demands. But dealing with people in Western democracies will also determine your success in office.

These citizens have tolerated years of free riding by China – in the form of pirating technology, expanding exports by holding your currency down, and building companies with subsidies and trade barriers that bankrupt their firms.

In a 2012 European Union Chamber of Commerce in China survey, four out of five companies said China’s laws protecting intellectual property were inadequate. Two of three said they lost business in China because of market access or regulatory barriers.

The fact is, China is burning through global goodwill. People in Spain, Germany, the US, and elsewhere won’t forget how your policies and companies have bankrupted Western wind- and solar-energy companies.

If you push the citizens of the West farther, you will turn their simmering reservoir of goodwill into boiling hostility. They will not allow China to impoverish them in the next 10 years as they blindly did in the last 10. They can’t lose that many more jobs – more than 2 million in the last decade in the US due to the trade deficit with China and likely as many in Europe. Families can’t lose that much more income – down 6.7 percent in 10 years in the US, with China contributing to that loss.

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