DiscoverThe Ezra Klein ShowHow China Went From Economic Superstar to Faltering Giant
How China Went From Economic Superstar to Faltering Giant

How China Went From Economic Superstar to Faltering Giant

Update: 2023-03-145


In just a few years, the narrative on China has almost completely flipped. The dominant sentiments in America had been awe, envy and a kind of fear. China’s growth seemed relentless. Its manufacturing prowess was lapping ours. It weathered the pandemic without the mass death seen in the West. It could build housing and transit and infrastructure at a speed we could no longer even imagine.

And then, as 2022 ticked over to 2023, things changed. China’s real estate bubble popped. Its Zero Covid policies turned pathological. Its leader, Xi Jinping, turned what many saw as a technocracy with autocratic characteristics into something closer to a plain old autocracy. Foreign investors began looking to diversify. Companies that had long relied on China, like Apple, began trying in earnest to build manufacturing chains elsewhere. And under President Biden, American policy toward China began to match Trumpian rhetoric toward China: Slowing China’s rise, and building America’s ability to manufacture crucial goods, became central goals.

So what’s true about China right now? Which of these narratives, if any, hold water? Dan Wang is the technology analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics and a visiting scholar at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center. He focuses particularly on the core vector of U.S.-China competition: technological innovation and manufacturing prowess. Each year, his annual letter about what China can do, and how it does it, is eagerly awaited by many in the United States who are trying to understand that nation’s rise. In 2020 and 2021, those letters were profoundly bullish on China. In 2022, his sentiments turned. And so I wanted to explore the various sides of the China story with him.


China’s Hidden Tech Revolution” by Dan Wang

2020 Letter by Dan Wang

2021 Letter by Dan Wang

2022 Letter by Dan Wang

Book Recommendations:

The Jesuits by Markus Friedrich

Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon

Disturbing the Universe by Freeman Dyson

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld, Roge Karma and Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris and Kate Sinclair. Mixing by Efim Shapiro. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Pat McCusker and Kristina Samulewski.

Comments (1)

Granny InSanDiego

China will out compete the US in time. It is remarkable that China saw the huge gap between the richest Americans and everyone else and preferred the German model where this gap does not exist and the majority of the people are middle class. Their accomplishments are stunning. And their government is more nimble than the frozen, dysfunctional government of the US. Corporate America built Chinese industry by investing in China to take advantage of cheap labor and gutting American manufacturing. Now belatedly they are concerned. And so the US falls back on its old playbook of starting a cold war with China. China is patient and will choose its time to pay back American hostility. After Pelosi's poorly thought out trip to Taiwan, Taiwan had a major election. The party that invited Pelosi, which favors closer ties to the West, lost many local elections to the parties which favor closer ties to China. Taiwan does not want to turn into Ukraine, Iraq, or Vietnam. That will never happen despite the desire of the DoD.

Mar 17th








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How China Went From Economic Superstar to Faltering Giant

How China Went From Economic Superstar to Faltering Giant

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