Author Jim Mann has a hard-hitting piece in WaPo today on China’s greatest victory: Iraq.

The Iraq war isn’t over, but one thing’s already clear: China won.

As the United States has been bleeding popularity and influence around the world, China has been gaining both. That’s largely because it has been coming into its own as the first full-blown alternative since the end of the Cold War to Washington’s model of free markets and democracy. As the U.S. model has become tarnished, China’s has gained new luster.

For authoritarian leaders around the world seeking to maintain their grip on power, China increasingly serves as a blueprint. We’re used to thinking of China as an economic miracle, but it’s also becoming a political model. Beijing has shown dictators that they don’t have to choose between power and profit; they can have both. Today’s China demonstrates that a regime can suppress organized opposition and need not establish its legitimacy through elections. It shows that a ruling party can maintain considerable control over information and the Internet without slowing economic growth. And it indicates that a nation’s elite can be bought off with comfortable apartments, the chance to make money, and significant advances in personal, non-political freedoms (clothes, entertainment, sex, travel abroad).

Read the rest yourself. The connection between the defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan and China’s rise have been made clear many times on this blog. Thanks, Jim, for making them so public.