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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.

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Westerners will cry out – many already are – for action. And I think the patient efforts of their politicians to stop China’s present course of transferring the wealth of the West to the East will ultimately have to end.

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Western politicians will reconcile themselves to the fact that China won’t change its state-controlled trade practices and its unfairly created competitive advantages for its companies.

These leaders will continue to profess “friendship” but tacitly act like enemies – counter your cyber-espionage, bar state-controlled Chinese companies from Western markets, intervene with government action to stop China’s companies’ destruction of their energy, aerospace, software, telecom, and other strategic industries.

How will you guide China in response to these tough reactions? Will you lead your people in rash acts of nationalism as you have during the anti-Japanese protests in September? Will you foment Chinese jingoism that leads to burning cars and boycotting global finance summits? Will you fail to address Western concerns and continue down the same path of depleting your best customers?

If you continue fanning the flames of nationalism and making provocative moves against neighbors, will you be able to retain control of your military-industrial complex? Can you guide your own people away from turning a cold war into an unthinkable hot war?

My point is that you can’t keep draining the West to build up China – even if you badly need economic growth to retain your regime’s legitimacy and to feed China’s poor. Such authoritarian nationalism has historically led to internal unrest or war, as we saw in World War II.

Even if you don’t want democracy, listen to the world’s citizens, and find a middle way to grow and prosper. Work with other countries to defuse economic and military escalation – and keep China’s star rising without reducing the West to a continuously falling standard of living.

Richard A. D’Aveni is Bakala Professor of Strategy at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. He is the author of “Strategic Capitalism,” his fifth book.

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