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A Famous Scholar Went Kinda Viral For Calling The US A "Failed State"

But people in China were wary about being too excited over the conclusions from Francis Fukuyama.

Posted on January 18, 2017, at 6:12 p.m. ET

Francis Fukuyama, the academic who famously predicted Western democracy to be the final form of governance, recently published an essay titled "America: the failed state" in British magazine Prospect.

Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images

Fukuyama laid out his view that the rise of President-elect Donald Trump could — in the worst-case scenario — lead to "the US giving up entirely on global leadership, and the unravelling of the liberal world order it has done much to build since the 1950s."

With its catchy, assertive headline, the academic essay went viral in China: It ranked among top 10 search terms on Weibo as of early evening Tuesday, together with other terms such as "bank mistakenly transferred 1.2 billion" and "fatty who lost virginity."


In the one-party state whose rise has largely defied Fukuyama's predictions, almost a dozen Chinese media outlets introduced the essay to their large Weibo followings nearly simultaneously on Tuesday.


Shanghai-based state-funded news website The Paper even translated the whole article and people couldn't believe Fukuyama's conclusions.

"Can't believe the Fukuyama who worshiped Western mainstream values would write a gloomy article like this," one user commented.

Some, especially those who have enjoyed poking fun at the dramatic US election, are happy to hear a desperate tone from a well-known American scholar.


"This Japanese dude, besides trashing 'the world outside the US' as a profession, finally lost his sanity, he won't even let go of 'inside the US'"


(Fukuyama is American, as many others pointed out.)

And continue to boost nationalist sentiment around the Chinese internet.


But, as it turns out, the Chinese internet is more optimistic than Fukuyama about the US's prospects.

U.s. Navy / Getty Images

The first mention of the essay in Chinese media came from Ling Shengli, a scholar at the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, who published a commentary on The Beijing News.

Ling argued that Trump's coming to power only reflected some systematic problems in US society and "discomfort" toward democratized access to information, and that "it's still a long road before the US becomes a failed state." And as for Fukuyama, as far as his sharp observations allow, Ling wrote, his "sword often moves with side strokes" — i.e., his predictions sway to two opposite extremes — and said he "again" missed the point.

And self-assurance among Chinese nationalists was definitely met with pushback. "Not sure whether the US has failed or not, it's clear that China hasn't made it," read a comment with over 2,000 likes.


Some argued that some of the essay also applies to "the [part of] China with a class differentiation and fixation."


The majority warned against an early celebration of any US collapse.


"The US has some failed policy-making, but it's still a super power. China has gradually stood up under suppression these years, but still very much behind the US. Step by step, the Great Wall was not built in one day."

Fukuyama's books are widely read by Chinese readers. On popular online bookstore, The End of History and The Last Man have 4,339 reviews — more more than the 3,287 on Goodreads.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.