China’s Premature Great Power Label
Image Credit: Jakob Montrasio

China’s Premature Great Power Label

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Even just a decade ago, the impact of ‘China’s rise’ used to be spoken of in the long term. Yet those days are already behind us. Economically and diplomatically, China’s influence is now felt across the globe. In Africa, exports are dependent on Chinese domestic demand. In Latin America, interest rate policy is determined in reaction to policies set in Beijing. In time, China’s growing military prowess may also grow to the point that the country can truly be recognised as a superpower.

But in the near term at least there’s been an unhelpful tendency to exaggerate the impact China will have on international affairs. Setting aside the question of whether China’s rise is cause for celebration or concern, far too much is being extrapolated from current trends. The full realisation of its potential remains a long way off, and in the coming decades China won’t be a rapidly rising power, but a slow, steady and uncertain one.

The problem is that many of the indicators used to judge China’s success are misleading. Having constructed the world’s second largest economy, China’s wealth is increasingly measured against that of the United States—and the sense that Beijing’s position is strengthening in relation to Washington’s is pervasive. Many analysts are quick to point to graphs, for example, that suggest that China’s growth will overtake the United States within the next two decades, implying that when it does it will mark an eclipsing of US influence too.

But focusing on China’s overall GDP is deceptive. The day at which China’s overall goods and services eclipse those of the United States will see no sudden and remarkable realignment of the world order. The Allies’ victory in World War II, which created the bipolar world overseen by the US and USSR, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which elevated the United States to a position of unipolarity, aren’t suitable comparisons.

For all its progress, per capita GDP in China remains low.  Last year, when spread across its gigantic population, China’s GDP amounted to just $6,600 per person compared with the $46,400 for the average American. Such figures highlight an important point—while China’s overall GDP is fast approaching that of the US, the level of disposable income in the country remains low. It will be decades before China is able to introduce the tax rates that would be necessary to fund a global presence akin to that adopted by the US military.

Comments
66
James the Australian
April 8, 2012 at 15:13

Sorry mate!
You Yanks owe the Chins plenty, 3 trillions dollars to be exact.
Without their low cost quality stuff, you will be drowning in high inflation.
They did not steal your jobs, just look at the Germans.
Your jobs disappeared simply because of your self, do stop blaming others.
Learn from the Germans, they continue to prosper.
So what did they do right, that you Yanks did wrong?

MarK
February 17, 2012 at 01:27

The USA built China’s new economy – we owe China nothing! US companies -and- the US goverment sold out to China basically stealing our know-how, inventions, manufacturing and most importantly our US jobs! I have been in the computer industry for over 30 years and have over 55 US granted patents – I know, I witnessed it 1st hand. I am pro-active addressing this and the truth will be told.

MarK

Indian Maverick
January 24, 2011 at 14:22

@ john chan
1)For your info china has always in the past and present been copying other nations style of governance for its people.
2)China has stolen and copied technologies from other nations for their so called army.
3)China doesnt have frieds in this world except rogue and failed nations such as north korea,pakistan and all are 3rd world countries.
4)China is always a closed society where theres no creativity and innovation.
5)Although the chinese claim and show that they are rich, there isnt a single chinese
in the TOP TEN RICHEST PERSON in the world. (while there are 4 indians within top
ten.
6)The reason why china has the largest military only goes on to show that they are incapable of fighting by having a regular army.
And the list goes on and on……….

Shankar
December 30, 2010 at 04:04

@John Chan: This is in response to your 10-OCT-2010 post. For your 7 points I have a response of 7 points respectively:
1. Whay Chairman Mao has to massacare millions, if all Chinese willingly accepted
state capitalism?
2. Why China has to manipulate its currency rates and why your PM has to publicly
acknowledge that even slight appreciattion could lead to large scale unrest (as though
public protests are allowed in China!!! LOL)
3. Why China occupied Tibet. Why China claims the states of Arunachal of India as theirs?
Why China refuses to recognize Indian state of Sikkim as theirs? Even though being imperialistic is against communist ethos China is/was and continues to be imperialistic.
4. Why are you so sensitive for any kind of critisism. You act like a clerk in the Communist party office of China!!!
5. You befriend with rogue nations, you empower them with nuclear weapons and missiles
and you call your self a super power? Think about it.
6. FYI, India is the one and only ancient civilization that is surviving todate. In all these thousands of years we were one and only super power for many thousands of years, yet we have never ever attacked a single country outside the borders of our land. At one point the map of India spread across from current Afghanistan to current Burma. Our land was looted/plundered by barbaric Islamic invaders and then by colonial rulers. Yet todate, we have not started a single war outside our borders. You are blaming this great country called India, that we are planning to attack you. When we had all the powers we never attacked you, what makes you think we will attack you now? Everybody behaves nicely with you when they are in the need of some help from you, it all matters how they behave with you when they can help you with some thing. Similarly, when we are super power we never attacked are degraded China/Chinese culture why would we do that now?
7. Don’t try to pretent that China played into the hands of USA and China is innocent. Why do China keep calling Dalailama a Clique?

Shankar
December 28, 2010 at 23:13

@The_Observer: What makes you think that India is claiming super power status. Do you have any evidence. Even if they claim/aspire for it what is wrong?

Shankar
December 28, 2010 at 22:33

@LOL and @Jhon Chan: Congratulations on a very self congratulating mesgs!!!
By the way I am an Indian. In no way we are jealous of China. We are only watchful of ever cheating/lieng/mass murdering communist party of your country. As far as your countries progress and its true facts, we don’t have to go very far to know how acurate they are just tip of ice: your currency rates (I hope you got the message loud and clear!!!).

Both of you have taken up the responsibility of teaching history to the Westerners about China. Let me remind you of a little bit of history about Asia with due respect. For centuries and centuries, India was undisputed Super Power both in terms of wealth (by the way the great USA was found when Europe wanted to searach a sea route for India to have trade with India!!!) and in terms of milatary. During those days we have neither invaded any country (including that of your “Empire”). If you look at the entire South East Asia and China you will get to know where the cultural influences have come from and how they came from. Ofcourse they came from the great land of India and with love not with heatred. When those Budhist monks set foot in South East Asia and your country they never degraded or talked ill of any of the local cultures. Their sole motto was to share and in-turn to learn. That was/is/will always be India.

Unlike China, in the later years we were subjected to barbaric Islamic invasions, forcefull conversions (which is entirely against the ethos and standards set by Indians when they spread Budhism to South East Asia and China for which I am sure as you both are expert in Chinese history would vouch for me)and colonial rule (whose sole interest was to help their countries or origin and certainly not India). However, in the little 60 odd years of independence we are a shining democracy. We have more voters than the population of USA!!! With all our drawbacks and corruption we are certainly not far behind you. Therefore, if you think you are in a race with us we are ready for the race. If you think you are for a peaceful coexistence we are ready for that.

My take: If there is one thing in which I want China to defeat India that is in becoming the world’s largest democracy. Do that in next 20 years or else you will never be able to do that as India will surpass Chinas population in about 20 years. Can you do that?

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