This is a discussion on China as a Super Power within the Members' Club Room forums, part of the China Defense & Military category; Some Asian media has started to report that there are 2 Super Powers in the world, US and China. I ...
Some Asian media has started to report that there are 2 Super Powers in the world, US and China. I have yet to see any western media reporting that acknowledges China as a Super Power. I suppose it will take some time for them to come with terms with China as a Super Power.
In starting this thread, I hope that there can be interesting discussions on China's power and how China will behave as a Super Power.
To kick it off, let's look at the sources of China's power.
1. The most populous nation on Earth.
- Official population figures puts China's population at ~1.2 billion
- Unofficial estimates range as high as 1.5 billion due to families not reporting their 2nd child so as to skirt the One Child Policy
- The difference between the official figure and unofficial estimates is comparable to the population of US
2. Rapidly developing economy that is currently 2nd in the world.
- China has maintained impressive economic growth rates since it opened up its economy
- The trend of economic growth is likely to continue in the decades ahead as development spreads inland
3. Emerging technological powerhouse
- As highlighted by Martian's very useful posts, China is making huge strides in technological advancements
4. Emerging military power
- This website has tracked the modernisation of China's military and it is clear that it is becoming and increasingly capable and modern military
5. Soft/cultural power
- CCTV is now an international news provider, offering an alternative news source to established western news media such as CNN and BBC
- Confucius' teaching and the Chinese language are spreading in the world
- Chinese martial arts is becoming more popular in the world (partly driven by blockbuster movies)
- China is emerging as 1 of the largest movie production countries in the world
- Sun Tzu's Art of War is still a widely read publication more than 2,000 years after it was written
Now, the question is how will China behave as a Super Power (I have no doubt that China will become stronger and be acknowledged as a Super Power in the world in the near future).
I have to agree that to call China a superpower is still premature. No doubt China is a great Power and a Proto Superpower, but there are still many issues that make superpower definition difficult.
1) Still about half the population are rural subsistence farmers with very low incomes.
2) GDP per capita is still very low overall although Coastal Provinces are in a different league to their inland cousins.
3) The Chinese Military is largely a domestic force with only a few overseas postings (none exercise related).
4) A Chinese International Financial and Legal Infrastructure is still largely undeveloped.
In all instances, significant progress has been made as in ongoing and so yes, it is only a matter of time, but they still a work in progress, not yet arrived.
In one sense it may appear unfair as in terms of strict numbers there are large parts of China that would qualify far better than the country as a whole and a smaller, less populous nation with the same fundamentals could make superpower claims with justification. China however is a single country not a collection and so we must judge it as a whole and not selectively.
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The next 20 years will witness China's expansion of influence and return to its historic position in East Asia, a position that was lost in mid-1800's. By 2030, the world will be similar to the early 1400's, when the Ming dynasty was technologically comparable to Europe and the Islamic world.
China's sphere of influence will extend to Northeast Asia / Japan / Ryukyus, all around the South China Sea, down to the foot of the Himalayas in South Asia, and across the scattered oases of Central Asia. China will be roughly on par with the United States as a superpower. The West will still have an edge in terms of per capita wealth and cultural influence, but the Sino-sphere will have an edge in terms of industry and aggregate size.
China and the US will (eventually) reach a grand bargain, a kind of Monroe doctrine, where the US will not interfere in Asian affairs and China will not actively challenge the US in other regions.
How do we get from here and now to this scenario in 2030? The biggest obstacle is the fairly sizable group of countries neighboring China who don't want to see a very powerful China. I think in the next 20 years we'll see a conflict between China and one of these countries.
The circumstances of this conflict will be similar to the Sino-Vietnam War of 1979, where China felt compelled to launch a "punitive expedition" to demonstrate to neighboring countries that colluding with another superpower to contain China merely makes them sacrificial pawns because in the end that superpower will not be able or willing to protect them. Even though there is a fairly sizable group of countries opposing China's rise, if China initiates a quick, overwhelming and successful operation against one of them in a crisis situation, this will undermine other countries' confidence in their ability to contain China and they will sue for peace.
China is in the final stages of acquiring this military capability. Critical elements like the Yuan SSK (and recently revealed "new SSK"), Type 022 FAC, Type 054A air defense frigates, Y-8 maritime surveillance platforms, J-10, J-11B, recon sats and navigation sats are already mass produced. All that is missing now is the Type 095 SSN (to raid the maritime commerce of any island nations hostile to China), the H-X stealth bomber, and the Y-20 transport. These three elements should fall into place around 2015.
So, we will likely see rising regional tensions surrounding China from now until 2015, then possibly a military clash as China finds a weak point to "break through" and then the "dominoes falling" successively as more and more neighboring countries decide to make peace with China (which wields both carrot and stick). By 2030 that process should be complete and the resulting arrangement (including the "Monroe doctrine" understanding with the US) will lay the foundation of the global order for the rest of the 21st century.
I guess a broader definition is a sustianable and consistent superpower. Russia to be was like a one hit wonder. China will no doubt be a superpower one day BUT the question is will they be able to sustain it or will they be more like a one hit wonder?
Once they achieve the superpower status, things will dramatically change for them. Part of it is cultural influence. I think one of the reason why the US has been able to maintain the status quo in such a successful manner is due largely to the cultural influence it has had in the world. Until China achieves that it is difficult to maintain the status for any long periods of time.
In many ways China is near superpower. But I wouldn't expect them to reach a true superpower status until 2020.
Currently 3rd largest country in terms of patents applied.
2nd largest in scientific journals published.
51 gold medals at Olympics:That is the first time either Russia or the USA did not get the most gold since 1936 (in a non-boycotted olympics).
Second largest economy in terms of GDP and PPP.
Second biggest spender on defense. (But China has a long way to go to catch up here.)
As for China being a "Superpower", I thought the definition of a superpower was the ability to project power globally. China is nowhere near that ability.
Is there a reason this is in Strategic defense section?
As for whether China is a super power or not, that really depends on the barometer. In terms of political influence and economic power, it has already reached that stage. In terms of military, cultural influence and technological prowess, it has not reached there yet.
Consider the following. At current time, the US economy is 2.8 times the size of Chinese economy. In actual fact, the gap is narrower, since China is based on production whereas American one is phony and based on spending + debts. Now, if we assume an average of 5% greater GDP of China over US for the next 10 years, US economy will be around 1.7 times that of China's by 2020. Now, if we add in the affect of 30% depreciation by US dollar vs RMB. 1.7 * 0.7 is about 1.2. So in my opinion by 2020, US economy size will be not that much larger than Chinese economy. Of course, a lot of things will depend on how the Chinese economy progresses in the next decade, but at this point, US economy is in more trouble.
The current economic downturn has proven to be a huge boon for Chinese economic/political power. You can see that when other countries needed money and investment, they all turned to China. As a result of that, China was able to scoop up a lot of resources and technology at basement pricing.
Other thing to consider about China is the idea of reverse migration. For the past 30+ years of economic liberation in China, there was a huge exodus of brightest Chinese going to Europe and North America seeking for better life. At this point, it seems like that has come to a close. Recently, I was going through a thread where it talked about the 14th institute (which produces many of the avionics + radar for pla) paying 150k to 200k RMB a year + relocation fee of what amounted to down payment for a house for qualified PHDs. That comes out to be around 23 to 30k USD a year. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you factor in the lower income tax + cheaper pricing in China for goods/services, that salary is a lot more competitive. Comparing that to what a Chinese PHD student can earn for post-doctor in Europe (guessing 30K to 40K Euro), you can already see the incentive for these folks to no longer earn a hard living away from family in foreign countries and return to where the roots/family is. That's why you are seeing a lot more Chinese expats or even 1st/2nd generation emigrants coming back to work in the country. They are also attracting more westerners of other ethnicity coming into the country. As a result of the increased ability to attract highly qualified/educated personnel to do R&D, that would prove to be a boon for the domestic industry. At the same time, the low cost of labour still exists in the country which helps them maintain cost advantage.
Compare that to a country like Germany that is lacking qualified engineers to fill jobs in the manufacturing industry and US which needs constant supply of H-1B visas to do the same. You can see that the Chinese companies will only get more competitive in the next 10 years.
So, I think that China has already reached superpower status in terms of economic power and political influence. It will come for technology next and military after that. Not sure about cultural though, since China itself is progressing into a more Western society.
China isn't a superpower comparable to the US of A yet, militarily, and (perhaps more important) culturally.
The US can distribute their own views on matters for the rest of the world in a seemingly sincere, high quality form, as well as having a large volumes of entertainment (music, tv shows, films/hollywood etc) which further cements their media power.
China is far, far, far away from even beginning to rival the US on that stage. Hopefully the CCP will see the need for a better homegrown media industry soon, but that will only come with some more liberal reforms.
As for power projection, that is certainly a military yardstick to measure by. While the PLA is not quite there in power projection, I'm not so sure the USSR fulfilled that criteria when it was considered a Super Power either.
--- EDIT ---
Forgot to mention China's space program.
During the Cold War, both Super Powers (US & USSR) were the only countries who can put a man in orbit using their own space programs. They are also the only 2 countries to have put a man on the moon.
China is now the 3rd country to have put a man in orbit through its own space program. And China is aiming for the moon as well as building a Chinese space station. Not quite the same level yet as compared to the US and USSR space programs of old. However, the level of activity in the respective countries space program provides an indication of the pace of development.
Last edited by Spartan95; 10-24-2010 at 06:36 PM. Reason: China's Space Program
English language entertainment has been successfully marketed to a lot of countries for many decades, whereas Chinese language entertainment is limited to those nations with Chinese communities. How this will turn out in the future is anybody's guess.
However, China is putting resources into promoting its own culture so as to enhance its soft power. The Beijing Olympics is a case in point, as are block buster Chinese movies that are dubbed in English and marketed overseas. How successful this effort will be remains to be seen.
The point about per capita GDP is interesting though. If that is a yardstick to measure economic strength, than quite a few European countries and Japan will qualify since they have some of the highest per capita GDP in the world.
There is also the issue of financial debt vs financial reserves. China has the world's largest financial reserves. This is 1 of the sources of its economic strength.
Ultimately, I would say it comes down to perception. It may be a bit early to call China a Super Power, but there is a degree of subjectivity to it and a large part is dependent on individual perceptions.
I would agreed on most of what you have said. Yes, China's economic and technological growth are highly impressive and her GDP is flying like a rocket (which not necessary means a good thing - think of inflation).
However I would not agreed that being the most populous country in the world would be one of the points as a superpower. Most of the Chinese population are still quite poor and backward in terms of education and buying power... although I believe that this will change in the future but not right now. Plus many of these people are also cause of internal turmoil - look at Tibet and Xinjiang, the minority there (which actually are quite alot if you look at the numbers) are fighting against the Chinese rule and they are the cause of many problems.
China's military might be great on paper, with heaps of advance hardwares, but they are untested mostly and how they fare in real war is a big question mark. It brings me back to some old news on the Syria air defences (which boast to be among the best in the world and had one of the most advance technology at that time) but they are defeated pretty quickly by the Israelis. So having the best or advance hardware doesn't necessary means they are extremely good.
Next is the infrastructure of China... true, the infrastructure (roads, railways, air ports, buildings, factory, etc) are very established at the coastal cities and some inland cities, but not more inland. And what about the infrastructure linking all the cities together?
Plus welfare system of the Chinese are not very establish unlike that of the West too (but not sure if this will actually attribute to China not being a superpower).
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