By most accounts, the past few weeks have exposed a drastic maturity gap between the U.S. and Chinese governments. The purported icon of democracy watched its system descend into chaos and petty political gamesmanship, coming within hours of a default that would have sparked global economic disorder.

Publicly, Chinese leaders remained statesmanlike and above the fray, withholding comments on the circus in Washington. At the same time, and unsurprisingly, surrogates in the Chinese news media and commentators in the intelligentsia were less restrained. They gleefully piled on with op-ed articles arguing for "de-Americanizing" the world and rapidly reducing China's purchase of U.S. Treasuries. It is notable that some of these commentaries only appeared in the English-language press, both within China and globally: They were clearly aimed at a Western audience. So was the showy downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt by China's Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. — a feature of the last debt-ceiling crisis, too.

The rest of the world got the point. From China, sober voices were calling on America to get its house in order. In the U.S., politicians were so consumed with self-interest that they appeared willing to risk economic catastrophe. Once again, China's political system looked a lot stronger and more stable than the U.S.'s.