There is no doubt that China is becoming a significant economic force in the world, but not all analysts share the view that it will become a major superpower. Opinions differ on the economic state of China, with some viewing the economic development of the nation as part of an inevitable assent of the nation to prominence on the world stage. However, some question the ability of China to realize such a position for several reasons.
Is China world number one in GDP?
It is perhaps symptomatic of the uncertainty regarding China that there is not even an agreement on where its economy currently stands in comparison to the United States. A recent Fortune article suggests that China is the second largest economy in the world, but the International Monetary Fund actually disagrees with this verdict. The IMF has already reported that China has exceeded the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States, and thus should be regarded as the largest economy on the planet. But not all sources agree with this conviction.
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Regardless of this, it is still expected that China will exceed the GDP of the United States in the foreseeable future, even if one accepts for the sake of argument that this has not occurred at the time of writing. The new economic prominence of China has been predicted for many years, with the increasing power of the East Asian region predicted in seminal elite texts such as Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “The Grand Chessboard”.
The assent of China was also famously predicted by the investment bank Goldman Sachs, in an economic paper entitled “Dreaming with BRICS”. The title of this paper of course refers to the BRICS power bloc of nations, of which China is an important part. Russia is another prominent member of this group, that intends to achieve a broader influence in international affairs, and particularly economics and finance.
This has been exemplified by the push of the BRICS nations to receive greater representation in global economic institutions. It has even been suggested that this power bloc will attempt to create its own central bank, in an attempt to circumnavigate the existing established institutions that have been dominated by an Anglo-American / EU-NATO consensus for many decades.
China faces economic pressures
Some suggest that the demographics in the contemporary global financial system strongly favor this potential assent to prominence of China. But there is certainly a counter arguments against this. It has been suggested by some analysts that the current Chinese president, Xi Jinping, faces pressure to stabilize the economy of the nation.
Thet level of debt in China has increased exponentially in recent years, and although it remains proportionately small compared to many Western nations, there is a strong suggestion that the rapid industrialization and economic growth of the country which has been achieved by rapidly increasing its external dent has now placed its economy in a position of relative vulnerability.
China must also look to liberalize its domestic policy. Until the Communist nation can achieve this, its influence over the rest of the world will remain necessarily limited. It is often asserted by observers that although China has become an economically significant nation, it economy remains very much centered around production, and is disproportionately reliant on the Western world as consumers in order to retain a position of economic significance. This would suggest that although China can become a production powerhouse, it will struggle to usurp the existing economic force that is the United States, simply manufacturing products for a Western marketplace.
The existing premiere of the nation finds himself in a situation where he must extoll the virtues of the one-party Communist state rhetorically, while are also advancing economic reforms to produce what is essentially a capitalistic system. Certainly this has been significantly successful so far, and China has undoubtedly gained a certain amount of global influence. The fact that recent fluctuations in its capital markets were felt significantly all over the world is indicative of this. But it should also be noted that these markets quickly rebounded, indicating that China’s reach is perhaps not as great as some assume.
China’s evolving multidimensional strength
While China’s economic rise cannot be reasonably denied, some believe that its ability to become a true global power will be diminished by the lack of plurality of vision that the nation has engaged in, which has undermined its multidimensional strength. China has unquestionably focused on economic and military development, and while both of these elements of a country undoubtedly play a major role in creating a superpower, other aspects of nation-building have been somewhat neglected.
China has overlooked such dimensions as science, education, governance, diplomacy, technology and ethos to a greater or lesser extent. Some believe that in order to be a true global power, it is necessary for a nation to reach an outstanding level in soft skills related to culture and normative values.
Certainly, China is a nation with absolutely vast potential. Aside from already possessing a huge economic output, there are numerous further demographic factors which suggest that China could become an even more important economic base in the foreseeable future. China has established the second-largest military in size and budget, possesses the world’s largest population by a considerable distance, is already in line to become the largest English speaking nation on the planet, and has produced such notable achievements as the largest hydroelectric dam and solar power plant, become the world’s largest exporter, holds the largest foreign exchange reserves, and is the second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment. It is also notably the largest folder of US treasuries.
The definition of a global power would be a country that can truly influence events on the world stage. It is debatable whether China has achieved this yet, and certainly the hierarchy of the nation seems to realize the importance of this itself; hence the demands for China to be embraced within global economic institutions. But at the moment the jury remains out on whether China can truly achieve this status, as the potential and ambitions of the nation remain in hiatus.