Editors’ note: Angelo M. Codevilla, who died on September 21, 2021, was reviewing final edits on this essay at the time of his death.

Since few doubt that the increasingly numerous Chinese people are rising in power and self-confidence while we Americans continue to become less and less attached to the values of our own civilization, it makes some sense to ask whether we are doomed to succumb to Chinese civilization. This is especially pertinent given that the way Chinese people live has always been much the opposite of the way Americans want to live.

Does China represent the fatal crossroads of Western civilization? The question, as phrased, calls for an unequivocal no. Americans may well end up living under tyranny resembling that of today’s China. But that tyranny’s core is not the classic civilization of Confucius, Laozi, and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This civilization is what the Chinese themselves abandoned around the turn of the twentieth century. Today’s tyranny in China itself is by, of, and for the Communist Party. It is Western civilization’s perverted legacy, built upon ancestral Chinese habits.

China has not historically been a nursery, never mind an exporter, of totalitarianism or revolution. Moreover, China’s rulers have traditionally had neither interest nor capacity to export any way of life.