Future/Emergence of China

The People's Republic of China is often considered a rising superpower due to its large and stable population, its rapidly growing economy, and its rapidly growing military spending and capabilities. However, it has a number of economic, political and demographics problems to contend with and is still not influential enough on the international stage (compared to the scale of that of the United States) to be noted as a superpower.

Demographic factorsEdit

  • China's population is the world's largest, with about 1.3 billion citizens. With the global human population currently estimated at about 6.5 billion, China is home to approximately 20%. Because of the One Child Policy China is able to control its own population, although this may eventually have a detrimental effect on China's demographics.

Political factorsEdit

  • UNSC - As the only Asian country which holds a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, China has considerable influence in the foreign affairs.
  • Foreign Relations - Its military and economic aid for Pakistan has led to a permanently strong relationship with the Islamist States. It has been noted for providing direct aid to Pakistan's nuclear bid, although this has not helped its relations with some other nations. China's non-ideological approach to foreign affairs offers African and Latin American countries a desirable alternative when they seek foreign aids and potential allies. This means China is gradually increasing its soft power in areas which are traditionally dominated by the influence of western countries. Its ties with these countries have become closer through economic cooperation and trade.

Economic factorsEdit

  • China's GDP - has grown at a rate of at least 9% per year for more than 25 years (although recently the government has sought to slow this growth to prevent a crash), the fastest growth rate for a major economy in recorded history [1]. In 2005, China became the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of nominal value [2] and the second largest when measured by purchasing power parity, with a GDP (PPP) of US $7.124 trillion in 2004. In the same period of time, it has moved 300 million people out of poverty and quadrupled the average Chinese person's income.
  • Shanghai - also known as "Paris of the East", is moving to become Asia's financial centre and transit port for manufacturing companies [3].
  • Trade - China’s share in global trade is 5.2%, a rapidly growing number. China is also the world's third largest trading power (after the United States and Germany) [4]. Reports have shown that China is not only a major manufacturing export country, but also moving up to become a high-tech product export country. During 2005, China's high-tech export is about 80 million US dollars. The Chinese government also put great efforts to push for exporting medical supplies and software. [5] 80% of all goods in WalMart are made in china.
  • Technology - Studies show China is progressing rapidly in science and technology research. The Chinese government has spent billions of dollars in fields such as biotechnology and information technology. The R&D spending by the Chinese government more than tripled since 1998. Moreover, the numbers of the scientific research paper doubled in the same period. According to experts, China might produce more engineering PhDs than U.S. in 2010. Many foreign companies are setting up R&D centres in China due to the low costs, government support, and skilful researchers. [6]

Military factorsEdit

  • Military - China has the largest standing army (2.3 million men) of any country in the world. China is undergoing a massive effort to improve and modernize its military technology, equipments, and power projection capabilities. Fuelled by a rapidly growing defence budget over the years (China's size of military spending is second only to the United States), China is poised to have an organized, well-trained, and well-equipped military power within the next 20 years [7].
  • Space exploration - China launched its first satellite Dong Fang Hong to Earth orbit on its own Long March rocket in 1970, becoming the fifth nation to achieve independent launch capability. There were over 50 Dong Fang Hong satellites launched over the next thirty years. China also became the third country (after the former Soviet Union and the USA) to send humans into space on its own in 2003. China has said that it plans to launch its own space station and to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2020, assuming funding was approved by the government [8].

Cultural factorsEdit

  • Soft power - China has always had an attractive traditional culture, but now it is entering the realm of global popular culture as well. Chinese novelist Gao Xingjian won China's first Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000, and the Chinese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became the highest grossing non-English film. Many Chinese actors/actresses and motion picture makers such as Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, and Zhang Yimou have gained international recognition. Yao Ming, the Chinese star of the U.S. National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets, is rapidly becoming a household name, and China has successfully hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. The enrollment of foreign students in China has tripled to 110,000 from 36,000 over the past decade, and the number of foreign tourists has also increased dramatically to 17 million in 2004. Mandarin, being the most spoken language in the world, will likely increase China's soft power. China has created 26 Confucius Institutes around the world to teach its language and culture, and while the Voice of America was cutting its Chinese broadcasts to 14 from 19 hours a day, China Radio International was increasing its broadcasts in English to 24 hours a day [9].
  • History - China has a long history spanning 5000 years. During the times of imperial China, China held some of the most advanced technologies in the world. The Chinese invented the gunpowder, paper, the printing machine, compass, the mechanical clock [10], and introduced the world's first paper money. Trade and learning occurred between the Chinese and the ancient Roman Empire, the Indians, and the Arabs.
  • Diaspora and cultural spread - Another important factor is the strong and economically influential Chinese [diaspora around the world, especially in South East Asian countries like Malaysia, [Singapore, Indonesia, [Thailand, and throughout the western world. The Chinese culture carries an important place in the culture of Vietnam, Korea, Japan and other south-eastern Asian countries. The Korean kingdom absorbed much of the Chinese essence in philosophy, language, technology as well as gaining military protection. The ideas of Confucianism, originated from China, holds great influence on the lifestyles of the Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, the Chinese in China and even within the Chinese diasporas.

Points against the rise of a Chinese superpowerEdit

Military problemsEdit

  • China's military capabilities (technology and power projection) are still dwarfed by that of the United States (and the European Union, if counted as a unit), whose military spending outstrips that of its next major competitors combined. For example, in terms of operational land-based ICBM systems, it is the USA that possesses the most lethal strategic capability by far, as it has a more reliable arsenal and a massive numerical edge in ICBMs over China. In space technology as well, China is lagging behind United States' level of development as the latter had an earlier headstart in its space program.

Political problemsEdit

  • Foreign affairs - China has yet to improve its relationship with other major powers. The Chinese people are often suspicious of Japan due to Japan's occupation of China in World War II. China has also fought a war with the other Asian regional power, India, and is noted for helping Pakistan in its wars against India. A major ongoing issue is the continued Chinese claims over Taiwan. China has threatened Taiwan with invasion should they declare formal independence. Although most countries recognize the One China policy and regard Taiwan as a part of China, the United States is obliged by law to help defend Taiwan should there be any invasion from the mainland. Therefore, a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait could lead to a confrontation between China and the United States, and this can be devastating to both sides.
  • Freedom of information - Some observers believe that the key to future technological growth will be the internet and global communication. Access to information is believed the key to development of science and technological ideas. Chinese control over information sources such as the internet may eventually hamper its growth. China is already less authoritarian; an example being the growth of the internet and the spread of free media. However, in recent times the government has increased its control over the media again.
  • Foreign relations clash - While the Chinese government would best maintain good relations with the United States, its good relations with Islamic nations may clash with its desire to maintain relations with the modern superpower. It is also necessary to note that some of its allies, particularly African and Latin American nations, are politically/economically unstable, which could lead to unexpected twists in foreign relations. While this is not necessary a point against China, it could be observed that Chinese foreign relations are (in the current era) delicate and unstable.
  • Foreign suspicion on China's true ambitions - Powerful nations such as the United States and India still are suspicious of China's international ambition. Some intellectuals and officials argue that China may become another Soviet Union type power, with the means and will to confront the United States, and that the U.S. may intervene to thwart China's rise. However, due to the close economic ties developed through globalization between China and these countries, a large scale military confrontation seems unlikely.
  • Incompatible economic and political model - Although China has liberalized its economy, its political system remains a one-party, authoritarian state. This have led some to believe that such two conflicting systems are incompatible and China's growth would be unsustainable in the long run. As Chinese people's affluence grew, it is believed that they would eventually demand more say in the political life of the country. This may lead to the eventual downfall of the Communist government. If such power transition towards a more democratic and open society were turbulent, this may present a setback to China's development.

Economic problemsEdit

  • Unemployment and uneven growth throughout the country - China still faces great difficulty in solving the mass unemployment problem in the rural areas. Furthermore, although the eastern seaboard areas of China have experienced a tremendous (often double-digit) economic growth rate and are major recipients of FDI into the country, similar breakneck growth rate has been lacking in the relatively undeveloped western areas. To close the gap and to catch up with China's wealthier eastern provinces, the government has initiated China Western Development strategy, the Revitalize Northeast China initiative, and the Rise of Central China policy. On a more micro-scale, there's also a big gap over urban-rural population wealth. This great disparity in urban-rural income (on average, urban residents earned three times more income than their rural counterparts) has caused concerns such as social discontents. Officially, an estimated 150 million Chinese still live below international poverty line (living under US$1 per day) in 2005. This has prompted the government to take steps such as abolishing the 2,000-year-old agricultural tax, exempting personal income tax for those receiving monthly income below 1,600 yuan, and increasing investments in rural infrastructure, education, and health services.
  • Technology sector - In some technology fields, China is still decades behind its counterparts such as the United States or the European Union. As many consider the manufacturing sector to have a minor (and decreasing) importance to technological advances and the surge of tertiary and quaternary sectors, to be a major industrial powerhouse would not necessarily characterize a nation as a superpower, but just a huge new commodity producer.
  • External dependency - The Chinese economy has a large dependence on foreign trade (exports) and investments. Therefore, any sudden fluctuation such as a downturn in global economic growth and/or demands for Chinese goods may have a significant adverse effect on the economy.
  • Currency - While China is a source of cheap and efficient labour force to foreign countries, it is the opinion of some experts that the Chinese currency needs re-evaluation and is currently greatly undervalued. This is a disadvantage of its rapid growth in recent years. When the currency is thoroughly re-valued, it is possible that the outsourcing of jobs to China would lessen somewhat. While a stronger currency is a concern for China's manufacturing industry, a positive effect could see the reduction of China's over-reliance on foreign trade and investments as the current main engine for its economic growth. It will thus cause domestic consumption to increase its role in fuelling the economic growth. This type of growth would be more stable towards external economic conditions and sustainable for longer periods of time. As of 2005, the share of domestic consumption in China's overall GDP is only approximately 30%, far below United States' share of 80% (most other industrialized nations' share are about 60-70%).
  • Trade imbalance - Products that are labelled Made in China are not necessarily developed or designed in China. In fact, 60% of Chinese goods that are exported come from overseas-invested factories, according to Chinese customs data. China has become a focal point for assemblies, where final products are assembled and/or tested, but not manufactured there. The main components are still imported from other countries. For instance, although China keeps a [trade surplus of US$200 billion with the United States, it has a trade deficit of US$137 billion with Asian countries.
  • Deteriorating environment - As a result of previous growth-at-all-costs strategy, China's environment is in a state of serious degradation. Soil erosion, desertification, air pollution, loss of arable lands, and steady falling of [water table especially in the north are serious problems and are estimated to cost the Chinese economy billions of dollars per year. Water is already a scarce commodity in China (especially in northern arid regions) where per capita water supplies are less than a quarter of the world's average. Pollution from coal causes over 250,000 deaths annually. By 2020, it is predicted that China will account for up to 19 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. [11] To respond to these problems, the Chinese government has embarked upon a number of projects such as Great Green Wall project (planting billions of trees to hold back desertification) and building canals to divert water from water-abundant southern regions to arid northern regions.
  • Economic crimes - Due to the lack of openness of the Chinese society in general, economic crimes such high-level corruption and collusion have become rampant among party and government officials, and this may hinder China's economic growth and hurt the confidence of investors. [12] Combined with worsening social problems in China (due to wide urban-rural income gap), there are about 87,000 big and small-scale demonstrations throughout China in 2005 alone. [13] Most of these public discontents are not political; rather they are due to economic reasons. Peasants for example, are being forced to leave their land and are compensated poorly. Their confiscated lands are then sold at a much higher price with the local officials keeping much of the proceeding profits. [14]

Demographic problemsEdit

  • One Child Policy - A side effect of the One Child Policy is China's rapidly aging population, although this is likely to stabilize over time, it is predicted that by 2020, 25% of China's population will be considered retirees, so they cannot contribute to the work force. This could disadvantage its economy. Despite government prohibition, the One Child Policy and cultural preferences over sons have encouraged female infanticide and gender-based abortion. If trends continue, there will be 30-40 million more men of marriageable age in 2020 than there are women. [15]

External linksEdit



Last modified on 5 August 2010, at 01:59