You see, Ms. Hou gamely agreed to play me after I interviewed her. She had just flown into Beijing after winning the world championship, and she was exhausted — and she shredded me in 21 moves.
Most dispiriting, when I was teetering at the abyss near the end of the game, her coach nudged her and suggested mischievously that we should switch sides. Ms. Hou would inherit my impossible position — and the gleam in her coach’s eye suggested that she would still win.
It will be many, many decades before China can challenge the United States as the overall “No. 1” in the world, for we have a huge lead and China still must show that it can transition to a more open and democratic society. But already in discrete areas — its automobile market, carbon emissions and now women’s chess — China is emerging as No. 1 here and there, and that process will continue.
There’s a lesson for us as well. China’s national commitment to education, opportunity and eating bitterness — those are qualities that we in the West might emulate as well. As you know after you’ve been checkmated by Hou Yifan.
Nicholas D. Kristof
I wonder if Mr. Kristof may be putting too much emphasis on open and democratic society given the dysfunctional open and democratic society he lives in. My guess is that the real government of the USA is less open and democratic than he thinks, although the banking/tech/internet complex which is now running the country is open it is meritocratic rather than democratic. It may be the vehicle for the USA keeping up with China and perhaps India. But the shake out will be ugly and democratic may fall by the wayside.