I made the decision to leave China to study in the United States early in 1949. It was a turbulent time for China. Mao Zedong's army had reached Beijing and I was not optimistic about the Kuomintang's prospects. Months later, Mao proved victorious, and my stay in the US became extended indefinitely.
Now, 70 years later, both my adopted country and my homeland face significant domestic hurdles, laid bare by recent events. In the US, the impeachment and acquittal of President Donald Trump and his behaviour since, show the country's hopelessly divisive partisanship.
In China, the coronavirus outbreak has sparked criticism of President Xi Jinping's power centralisation and top-down leadership, at the expense of public interest. The crises facing both nations are being blamed on their respective leaders, though the responsibility is not theirs alone to shoulder.
The US problem of partisan division is not new. George Washington warned about the dangers of political parties in his farewell address in 1797. The nation has largely ignored his warning.
Much ado was made over Senator Mitt Romney's decision to vote to remove Trump as president - the sole Republican Party member to do so. It was a brave decision in today's political climate, and also only the first time in history that a senator had voted to remove a president from his party.
During the impeachment proceedings of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999, senators voted entirely along partisan lines. The Trump presidency is a mere manifestation of the sickness plaguing the American system; it is not the cause.
Likewise, the initial government mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak in China was a result of the Communist Party's standard operating procedure, and not unique to Xi's leadership.
Case in point, the government response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003 was strikingly and tragically similar. Chinese people were angry at their government too, but it did not result in any systemic changes to the party's ruling strategy.
While Trump and Xi are not solely responsible for their countries' problems, they have to bear significant blame for exacerbating them. Trump's willingness to taunt, vilify, and humiliate the Democratic Party, alongside his insistence on absolute loyalty from Republicans, goes against the checks and balances at the heart of the American democratic system.
Instead of learning from the impeachment process, as some moderate Republicans had hoped, Trump is committed to doubling down on the politicisation of his foreign policy. While he may see this as a way to punish Democrats and secure his re-election in November, the true victims of this strategy are the American people.
Having spent my career analysing and teaching US foreign policy and promoting positive US-China relations, I appreciate how serious a charge it is for a president to politicise foreign policy.
Americans deserve to expect that their president weighs the best interests of the nation and its security when making foreign-policy decisions, and not his political gains. This is the type of foreign policy I would expect of an authoritarian country such as China, but not the US.
While Xi did not cause the coronavirus outbreak, his leadership style fostered the political environment that allowed the virus to spread so drastically. If local government officials were not so focused on projecting stability and so fearful of reprisal, the government's strategy to contain the virus could have begun weeks earlier.
Containment strategies would have been much less drastic and arguably more effective. If the people in Hubei province had been informed of the viral threat when the authorities first became aware of it in December, they could have made decisions to prevent the proliferation of the virus in China and the world.
Americans and Chinese are both suffering because of poor leadership. Only the Americans have the opportunity to do something about it. The presidential election officially kicked off earlier this month and continues throughout the spring as voters try to winnow the sprawling Democratic field into a single candidate.
Hopefully, a candidate will be chosen for his or her capability to defeat Trump in the general election in November. But even if Trump secures a second term, his presidency will be over in 2024. The Chinese have no such luxury.
While criticism of Xi has been rampant outside China since the outbreak, and to a lesser but still significant degree on the mainland, there is no realistic expectation that the government will learn anything from this crisis or change its leadership.
For this reason, I am thankful I left China. For all of the imperfections, inefficiencies and failures of the American system, I still have profound faith in and appreciation for the right to select and criticise leaders.
I have voted in every presidential election since John F. Kennedy's. I have voted for candidates of different parties, and watched transitions of power based on the will of the American people. The Chinese have never known such privileges - not under the system I left in 1949, nor under the Communist Party rule since.
I hope my fellow Americans do not take their privileges for granted when they make their decision in the 2020 presidential election.
Chi Wang, a former head of the Chinese section of the US Library of Congress, is president of the US-China Policy Foundation
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