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With the Chinese population being 4 times that of the United States, and China's high economic growth, will this allow them to become the world's sole


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1. Ethan Young, I live in the US and have a strong interest in politics and global affairs(伊森.杨,居住在美国,兴趣在时政)
Updated Dec 4
I can see why you would be curious about this topic. Indeed, Chinese leadership seems to move from strength to strength. Its economy is still growing, its military is gaining strength, and its deep pockets are winning it influence. To many, therefore, the question is not how or why China will replace the United States, but when. But as an intellectual exercise, let us try making a modest substitution in the argument that China will surpass the US by swapping China for Europe. Europe, excluding Russia and some other, smaller countries, has a land area of 3.9 million square miles, which is to say larger than the U.S. at 3.79 million.


The European Union GDP is roughly $20 trillion (nominal) while that of the United States is around $18 trillion less. Europe had 1,823,000 forces in uniform in 2014, compared with 1,031,000 for the United States today. Where am I going with this? If we add educational and technical levels as well as standard of living, one might be forgiven for thinking that, by the numbers, Europe, not China, was the leading potential challenger to the United States. That of course is what the late Jean-Jacques Servan-Schrieber argued in his immensely popular and influential bit of futurology Le Défi Américan [“The American Challenge”] in 1967. As we all know, however, things didn’t quite pan out that way.


And yet, where China appears to be filling a leadership vacuum, there is often less than meets the eye. Climate change is one example. The world’s largest emitter has done much to cut back on its discharge of greenhouse gases, installing more renewable capacity than any other country. Yet its own transparency and accountability over pollution and emissions still falls far short of the openness a world leader on climate change would need to adopt. Meanwhile, common cause between Europe and China has severe limits. As James Kynge of the Financial Times says, China’s push to cut emissions is motivated by an environmental crisis at home, combined with hopes of conquering world markets for renewable energy. Europe wants to save the planet.


As for economic leadership, the EU-China relationship again reveals the limits. Mr. Xi pries open markets, but many of China’s own remain closed—and where foreigners may operate, the fear is of technology being stolen. That has led to European frustrations, and additionally, anger is also growing over China’s divide-and-rule tactics in Eastern Europe through its belt-and-road enticements.


Part One: Obor
China’s signature geopolitical foreign policy deserves close scrutiny. In terms of scale, the Belt and Road (BRI) also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR) has no parallel in modern history. It is more than 12 times the size of the Marshall Plan, America’s post-World War II initiative to aid the reconstruction of Western Europe’s devastated economies. Even if China cannot implement its entire plan, OBOR will have a significant and lasting impact. And OBOR is not the only challenge Xi has mounted against an aging Western-dominated international order. He has also spearheaded the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and turned to China’s advantage the two institutions associated with the BRICS grouping of emerging economies (the Shanghai-based New Development Bank and the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement).


At the same time, he has asserted Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea more aggressively, while seeking to project Chinese power in the western Pacific. But OBOR takes China’s ambitions a large step further. With it, Xi is attempting to remake globalization on China’s terms, by creating new markets for Chinese firms, which face a growth slowdown and overcapacity at home. So, repeating a mantra of connectivity, China dangles low-interest loans in front of countries in urgent need of infrastructure, thereby pulling those countries into its economic and security sphere.


China stunned the world by buying the Greek port of Piraeus for $420 million. From there to the Seychelles, Djibouti, and Pakistan, port projects that China insisted were purely commercial have acquired military dimensions. There is a logic at the core of the Belt and Road—Asia needs more infrastructure—but thanks to jumbled strategic thinking and a suffocating amount of PR fluff, Xi’s flagship initiative looks set to disappoint. Asian and European countries lining up to attract Chinese investment in new roads and bridges will receive less money than the headline figures suggest.


China itself will discover that lending money to its more poorly governed neighbors is not always a profitable business. And foreign policy analysts who see the Belt and Road as a Chinese-style Marshall Plan will be disappointed as the bubble of sky-high expectations pops. For the United States, there is little to fear in the Belt and Road. Asia may get some useful new roads, but the region will also see the limits of Chinese power projection, even in a sphere such as infrastructure where China has a comparative advantage.


The headline numbers associated with the Belt and Road are impressive, and purposefully so. Asia needs lots of infrastructure and an economic vision. China has an impressive track record building highways and high-speed trains across its own vast territory. With Washington distracted by domestic politics, Beijing rightly sees a chance to set the agenda in Asia. Hence the initiative, which was first launched in 2015, has been repeatedly expanded But the gap between China’s promises and commitments are already being noticed.


By some estimates, Chinese construction contracts with Belt and Road-related countries may decline in 2017. Already, officials in some neighboring countries are grumbling about not receiving money. Russia, for example, is miffed that that despite applying for funding for 40 different projects, it has yet to receive a dollar. This is despite the purported partnership between the two countries. And Beijing’s mechanism for spending the money appears as likely to generate enemies as friends. For one thing, though small and medium-sized countries are lining up for cash, the region’s great powers are responding with counter initiatives.


India, for example, boycotted the Belt and Road Forum and accused China’s lending program of benefitting Beijing more than its neighbors. Japan is pushing its own “quality infrastructure” initiative, emphasizing inadequacies in Chinese construction. Tokyo is also pushing to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal without the United States, which would give Japan a major role in writing Asia’s trade rules. And Russia, which itself hopes to participate in the Belt and Road, is eying Central Asia nervously.


The Kremlin had long hoped it could divide the region, with Russia managing the politics and security, while China helped develop these countries’ economy. But as China’s role grows, that division of labor is looking more difficult to sustain. Even in places where China’s influence is not being countered by other powers, Beijing’s massive cash infusions may still lead to headaches. Consider the over $20 billion Beijing has committed for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, much of it on projects in the transport and energy spheres that are already underway.


For Pakistan, this is a big opportunity. The country needs investment, and even though the financing terms and thus the ultimate cost to Pakistan are not clear, Islamabad is desperate for cash. For China, the payoff is primarily geopolitical. Thanks to the project, Beijing is deepening Pakistan’s dependence, while increasing China’s access to the Indian Ocean and its energy trade routes via Pakistan’s port of Gwadar. But will China’s loans to countries such as Pakistan ever get repaid? The history of development lending to countries such as Pakistan is full of disasters, conflicts, and painful defaults. Decades of experience from Western countries and institutions such as the IMF show that making loans is the easy part.


Sri Lanka is already struggling to deal with debt from Chinese-backed infrastructure projects. And in a worrisome irony, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz spoke at the Belt and Road forum emphasizing his experience in office restructuring his country’s foreign debt. That default is unlikely to be Pakistan’s last. Beijing’s foreign policy credibility now depends on extending as many loans as possible. But the more money it lends now, the larger the future cost will be. China has already had to deal with spendthrift client states such as most Venezuela, which is on the brink of bankruptcy and which China has repeatedly granted extensions. In other words, the more lending expands, the less liekly China will be to swallow the cost of defaults.


If China tries to force repayment, however, it will lose it new friends quickly (which would rather defeat the point of the entire project). Consider the IMF, which is reviled in many developing countries for demanding austerity measures to enforce loan repayment. Whenever lenders try to force repayment, relations sour, and when they forgive the loans, they incur a large cost. With Belt and Road-related promises reaching around $1 trillion, the sums are substantial, and the losses—Chinese officials privately estimate that certain projects will lose 80% of the money invested—are even bigger.


Put simply, China is setting itself up for either significant losses or for painful battles with its neighbors over debt repayments. Notably, only 1% of Belt and Road funding has been extended via institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which actually has credible lending criteria. Instead, the bulk of Belt and Road loans have come through the China Development Bank and the country’s big four state-owned banks, which at times act as slush funds for Beijing’s foreign policy. The financial viability of much of this lending is dubious at best.


The risk of non-performing loans at state-owned banks is already clouding China’s future economic prospects. Since reaching a peak of $4 trillion in 2014, the country’s foreign-exchange reserves have fallen by about a quarter. The ratings agency Fitch has warned that many OBOR projects—most of which are being pursued in vulnerable countries with speculative-grade credit ratings—face high execution risks and could prove unprofitable. Xi’s approach is not helping China’s international reputation, either. OBOR projects lack transparency and entail no commitment to social or environmental sustainability. They are increasingly viewed as advancing China’s interests, including access to key commodities or strategic maritime and overland passages, at the expense of others.


In a sense, OBOR seems to represent the dawn of a new colonial era: the twenty-first-century equivalent of the East India Company, which paved the way for British imperialism in the East. But, if China is building an empire, it seems already to have succumbed to what the historian Paul Kennedy famously called “imperial overstretch.” In fact, many countries along the Belt and Road are already pushing back. Sri Lanka, despite having slipped into debt servitude to China, recently turned away a Chinese submarine attempting to dock at the Chinese-owned Colombo container terminal. Another example is the stalled Myitsone Dam project in Myanmar. Conceived well before One Belt, One Road, the Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River would have been Myanmar’s largest infrastructure project.

从某种意义上来说,一带一路就像是新殖民主义的复辟一样, 这是21世纪的东印度公司。 中国正在尝试建立一个新的帝国,而这个帝国似乎正在陷入保罗肯尼迪所说的”帝国过度扩张”当中。事实上,很多一带一路国家的立场已经开始倒退。斯里兰卡已经陷入了中国的债务奴役状态,前一段时间,斯里兰卡拒绝了一艘中国的潜艇停靠在科伦坡码头。另外一个是缅甸的密松大坝项目,密松大坝位于伊洛瓦底江上,这个项目是缅甸最大的基础设施建设项目。

When the controversy over the dam was “just” a matter of environmental devastation and massive human dislocation, it looked likely to go forward. But once it became clear that most of the electricity produced by the dam would be bound for China, nationalist outrage exploded. The already underwhelming implementation of the Belt and Road project and the likelihood of unpaid debts is not the only reason to expect that it will disappoint Beijing’s geopolitical goals. China is using the Belt and Road to export its excess capacity in heavy industries and construction. Yet what the world outside of China needs is not more supply of Chinese industries, but more demand from Chinese consumers.


If China were to spend more on its consumers, they would buy more from abroad, increasing demand—and thus employment—in other countries. Instead, China is looking to build roads and bridges that will increase demand for Chinese concrete and steel—and which will in many cases be built by Chinese workers. The Belt and Road is as much a welfare program for Chinese industry as for the country’s poorer neighbors. Already, however, other countries are beginning to realize this. President Trump is not the only world leader complaining about Chinese trade practices, even if he wrongly focuses on the bilateral trade deficit rather than more relevant multilateral dynamics. Kenya’s President was only the most recent world leader to demand that China buy his country’s products in addition to its raw materials.


The more that the Belt and Road succeeds in its current form, the bigger this problem—and, likely, the political backlash—will become. Already, neighbors such as Kazakhstan are imposing restrictions on Chinese laborers and investment in their countries to ensure they benefit, too. Getting Old Before Getting Rich:
But the flaws in the OBOR plan pale in comparison to China’s biggest and least-known domestic crisis: its rapidly aging population. China is graying at a jaw-dropping rate, the frightening scope of which is best expressed in numbers. Today, China boasts roughly five workers for every retiree. But by 2040, this highly desirable ratio will have collapsed to about 1.6 to one.


From the start of this century to its midway point, the median age in China will go from under 30 to about 46, making China one of the older societies in the world. At the same time, the number of Chinese older than 65 is expected to rise from roughly 100 million in 2005 to more than 329 million in 2050 - more than the combined populations of Germany, Japan, France and Britain. The consequences for China's finances, foreign policy and future capacity for power projection are profound. With more people now exiting the workforce than entering it, many economists inside and outside China say that demographics are already becoming a drag on growth.


More immediately alarming are the fiscal costs of having far more elderly people and far fewer young people, starting with the expense of creating the country's first modern national pension system. Unlike residents of China's prosperous eastern cities, hundreds of millions of peasants and migrant laborers have scant personal savings and rudimentary retirement coverage, if any. When Xi announced in 2015 that he was slashing China's armed forces by 300,000 troops, Beijing spun the news as proof of its peaceful intentions. But demographics provide a more compelling explanation. The number of working-age Chinese men is plummeting.


In fact, China's working-age population shrank by 4.87 million people last year alone. As wages go up, maintaining the world's largest standing army is becoming prohibitively expensive. Nor is the situation likely to improve: after wages, rising pension costs are the second-biggest cause of increased military spending, but pensions will not build aircraft carriers, submarines or fighter jets. Awakening belatedly to its demographic emergency, China has relaxed its one-child policy, allowing parents to have two children. Demographers expect this reform to make little difference, however. In China, as around the world, various forces, including increasing wages and rising female workforce participation, have, over several decades, left women disinclined to have large families.


But the one-child policy did not, in itself, create this demographics time bomb; it only hastened and exacerbated it. In fact, China's fertility rate began declining well before the policy was introduced in 1978, but for amplifying this effect by an order of magnitudes, the one-child policy should be recognized as one of history’s great political blunders. As a result of its effects, single-child households are now the norm in China, and few parents, particularly in urban areas, believe they can afford a second child. Moreover, many men won't become fathers at all because under the one-child policy, a cultural preference for sons led to widespread abortion of female fetuses.

(译者注: 中国人口在1991年的时候就达到了世代更替率的平衡点,那个时期,女性的生育率大概是2.1左右)由于计划生育政策的影响,独生子女家庭已经成为中国的常态。中国有很多父母都认为他们无法负担得起第二个孩子,这个现象在城市地区尤其严重。此外,还有很多男性根本不可能结婚生子,重男轻女的文化导致了女性胎儿很多被流产掉,这加剧了人口性别比例的失衡。

As a result, by 2020 China is projected to have 30 million more bachelors than single women of a similar age, and I don’t think I need to tell you how much trouble 30 million sexually frustrated young men can cause. I personally believe that in another decade or two, the social and fiscal pressures created by ageing in China will force what many Chinese find inconceivable for the world's most populous nation: a mounting need to attract immigrants. And that’s going to be hard if the CCP keeps cracking down as it has been doing ever since Xi came to power.


With American baby boomers entering retirement, the US has its own pressing social-safety-net costs. What is often neglected in debates about swelling entitlement spending, however, is how much better America's position is than those of other countries. Once again, numbers tell the story best: by the end of the century, China's population is projected to dip below one billion for the first time since 1980. At the same time, America's population is expected to hit 450 million. Which is to say, China's population will go from roughly four and a half times as large as America's to scarcely more than twice its size. Even as China's workforce shrinks, America's is expected to increase by 31 per cent from 2010 to 2050. This growing labor supply will boost economic growth, strengthen the tax base and relieve pressure on the social security system.


At the same time, Americans will continue to enjoy a substantial advantage over the Chinese in terms of per capita income. This advantage in wealth will continue to underwrite US security commitments and capabilities around the world. And that the US is not facing similar population shrinkage is due largely to immigration. America's fertility rate, while higher than that of China and many European countries, is still below the threshold required to avoid shrinkage; about 2.1 children per woman. By keeping its doors relatively open to newcomers, America is able to replenish itself. If the country were to shut its doors, its population would plateau and its median age would climb more steeply. According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants and their children and grandchildren will account for 88 per cent of US population growth over the next 50 years.


I don't think it's a coincidence that China's increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea comes at a time when its economy is coming under increasing strain and the nation grapples with a rapidly aging, imbalanced populace. Howard French, in his book Everything Under the Heavens, also makes this case, arguing that Xi Jinping is acting so aggressively because he knows that China has only a narrow window of time—10 to 15 years at most—to lock in as many geopolitical gains as it can before China’s demographic crisis knocks it sideways and restricts its ability to project power.


Pollution and Other Issues
Aside from aging and gender imbalances, China also has a number of other internal issues that inhibit its becoming a superpower on par with the United States, issues that continually demand a vast amount of money and resources. Of these, pollution is probably the most infamous. China’s air is so polluted that it has become hazardous to breathe, as illustrated by the fact that in late December 2015, Beijing issued the second red-level alert warning for smog in its history. China’s aggressive industrialization has come at a staggering cost in human health and lives, and unregulated emissions have led to environmental catastrophe and a decline in the overall health of the Chinese people. China has a shrinking water supply similar in size to Sudan’s, which means it doesn’t have anywhere near enough. The capital intensity of production is very high too: In China, one standard energy unit used fully produces 33 cents of product.


In India, the figure is 77 cents. Gradually climb and you get to $3 in Europe and then— in Japan—$5.55. China is poor not only because it wastes energy but water, too, while destroying her ecology in a way perhaps lacking any precedent. But while China’s toxic air and water are well-known—smog alone is estimated to kill anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million Chinese every year—what’s even more insidious is the pollution of its soil. While it’s possible to reduce air or water pollution with enough effort, toxins can remain in the soil for centuries and are hugely expensive to eradicate. And China not only has many brownfield sites (contaminated areas near cities that were once used for industry) but vast swathes of polluted farmland, too. In 2014, for example, the government published a national soil survey which showed that 16.1% of all soil and 19.4% of farmland was contaminated by organic and inorganic chemical pollutants and by metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic.


That amounts to roughly 250,000 square kilometers of contaminated soil, equivalent to the all arable farmland of Mexico. Cadmium and arsenic were found in 40% of the affected land. Officials say that at least 35,000 square kilometers of farmland is so polluted that no agriculture should be allowed on it at all. Ethnic Tensions, Drugs and Societal Ills
And then of course there are other issues, such as rampant drug problems and internal ethnic and religious strife such as that between the Han Chinese and the Sunni Islamic Uighurs of Xinjian province, and the ongoing, longstanding persecution and discrimination against Chinese Christians.


Pushback From Abroad
For that matter, China's behavior on the world stage has already begun to backfire. Despite propaganda efforts to the country, instead of garnering the respect of the world China has gained the reputation of an international bully in the eyes of the global community--a role that, for many, was previously held by the United States. For all its talk of cooperation, China's saber-rattling and aggressiveness has pushed many of its neighbors, including those such as Thailand who might have proven allies under other circumstances, not only into the arms of the United States but also fostered greater, broader cooperation against China, which now finds itself more and more hemmed in by a growing number of economic and military treaties and alliances.


Relations between the U.S. and Vietnam, for example, have never been this warm, and the U.S. and India are deepening a defense partnership that would have seemed unthinkable even ten years ago. Even Asian nations with historical enmity have begun to put aside their differences in the face of what they see as the greater threat. And why? Because China has proven time and again that it is duplicitous and cannot be trusted to uphold any accord it agrees or signs on to. Case in point: Xi Jinping promised not to militarize the islands China currently holds in the South China Sea during his visit to Washington, and yet, after an American bomber plane accidentally flew too close, China tripped all over itself to militarize the islands and conveniently forgot about its promise.


Furthermore, China has antagonized its neighbors in ways that go even beyond the South China Sea issue. It infuriated Vietnam by towing an oil rig into Vietnamese waters, and just recently Chinese armed destroyers were spotted near the Japanese Senkaku islands in the East China Sea—islands which, like those further south, China also claims as its own, though it has not pressed the issue nearly so hard as it has in the South China Sea. The U.S. and many of the Southeast Asian nations are waking up to this fact: Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, the list goes on and on. Because of its aggressiveness, China now finds itself the object of increasing hostility and suspicion both abroad and in its own neighborhood, a situation made worse by the fact that it doesn't have the vast web of treaty alliances that America does, a web which--as I have already stated--is growing steadily larger as a result of China's actions.


Beijing's only real military and political ally is North Korea, and even that is coming under increasing strain because North Korea under Kim Jong-Un has proven less and less willing to dance to Beijing's tune, leaving China's leadership increasingly exasperated at Kim's recklessness and stubbornness. For example, in early December, a North Korean girl band called Moranbong was sent to China in an attempt to show solidarity with the Chinese and foster greater friendship between North Korea and China. The band was scheduled to perform for a solid week in the Chinese capital, but its tour was abruptly cancelled due to "communication issues," according to a Chinese press release by Xinhua, the state media outlet.


And in 2013, when North Korean jets flew over the Korean peninsula in a show of force, China's response was actually more alarmed than that of the United States. Not only that, but when the U.S. sent its own jets over the peninsula not long afterward as a demonstration of its own, the response from Beijing was surprisingly muted. Both of these incidents are part of a larger pattern that shows how relations between Pyongyang and Beijing have become more and more frayed—now more so than ever in light of North Korea’s nuclear ICBM tests, which have put China in an extremely uncomfortable position on the world stage as it comes under increasing scrutiny for its indulgence of the Kim regime. And while China's tarnished global image does little to deter other nations from trading with China, it also means that even many of those who loathe the United States see the U.S.-led world order as preferable to a world order dominated by the Chinese.


As for military strength, well, China has undoubtedly made impressive strides in modernizing its armed forces. But it will be decades, if ever, before it achieves the level of dominance that the United States enjoys today. Take defense spending, for example. In 2016, China’s official military spending rose 7.6 percent. Adjusted for inflation, that’s barely 5 percent. In U.S. dollar terms, it’s barely 3 percent. In real U.S. dollar terms, it’s hardly any increase at all. Put simply, China’s defense spending is essentially flat. Real spending increases of anywhere from 0–5 percent are a far cry from the “insider” estimates of just one year ago, when security experts were confidently predicting double-digit spending increases for 2016 and beyond. Figures as high as 30 percent were mooted as tensions rose in the South China Sea.


It is well-known that China’s official budget numbers don’t capture all of its military spending. But then, neither do America’s, or any other country’s. The best analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies concludes that China’s figures are close to real and getting closer. Even if the true total is unknown, the year-on-year increases seem credible. Since the turn of the century, China’s defense spending has bounced up and down between 1.9 percent and 2.1 percent of GDP, according to estimates from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). SIPRI estimates are the highest in the league; the U.S. Department of Defense, the British International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Chinese government itself all give lower figures. China may throw around its growing power in a very aggressive manner, but in comparative terms it does not seem to be spending very much on its military.


But defense spending is not the only way to gauge military power, nor is it the most accurate. In order to be a global power (that is, to wield military influence in places around the world) you need to have the military hardware necessary to deploy in different regions. That means things like aircraft carriers, military satellites, and advanced warplanes, and in every case, the US owns the majority of these weapons, while nations like China or Russia own only a relatively small percentage. For example, the US has more than 70 percent of all aircraft carriers, and its air fleet, with over 6,000 planes, is larger than China’s and Russia’s combined.


Neither China nor Russia nor Germany have anything that can rival America’s capacity for power projection. In terms of quality and quantity of weapons, the United States is also in a league of its own. Nothing fielded by any of our rivals compares to weapons like the Virginia-class submarine, the F-35 fighter jet or the new Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. According to the Washington DC-based Center for Naval Analyses, the Chinese Navy will have between 265–273 ships by 2020. The U.S. Navy, on the other hand, will reach over 300 ships by the end of that same year, as 80 ships that received funding from the Obama administration are currently under construction.


By contrast, of the 1,321 fighter jets in China’s air fleet, only 502 can be called modern. These are 296 variants of the Russian Su-27 (India has a more advanced SU-30 MKi) and 206 indigenously built J-10s that even Pakistan has refused to buy. Even China’s newest class of submarine, the Type 095, is estimated by American military experts to be as quiet as the Los Angeles-class submarines that were built in the 1980s.

相比之下,中国空军拥有1321架喷气式战斗机。只有502架可以称得上是现代化战机。这些战机主要是俄罗斯苏-27的变种。印度拥有更先进的苏-30 MKi。中国的战机当中有206架都是j-10,这款战机甚至连巴基斯坦都拒绝购买。据美国军事专家估计,即使是中国最新的潜艇095型潜艇,它也仅仅大致相当于20世纪80年代建造的洛杉矶级潜艇的水平。

In other words, China is about thirty years behind the United States in submarine quieting technology. To be sure, China has made impressive gains in its efforts to modernize its military, but it still has a long, long way to go. For the foreseeable future, America’s military superiority is not going anywhere, nor is the globe-spanning alliance structure that constitutes the core of the existing liberal international order (unless Washington unwisely decides to throw it away). Economic Influence
In terms of economic power, China also lags significantly behind the United States. Last year, economists at the International Monetary Fund estimated that the Chinese economy was larger than America’s. That statement made front-page headlines but was somewhat misleading because it used purchasing power parity (PPP), a measure of welfare that is somewhat dubious as an index of power. After all, a country imports oil or engines at the exchange rate, not purchasing power parity.


China’s per capita income is only a quarter of America’s: $8,261 to $57,294 in the United States. And then there’s the problem of capital flight, which has cost China trillion of dollars. The old saying goes that money is a coward, and so it is. All the rich people who can leave are leaving China. In cities across America, thousands of Chinese buyers are flocking to buy homes in cash. Even Xi Jinping sent his daughter to Harvard. American private secondary schools are inundated by Chinese applicants, and American real estate remains the number one choice for Chinese buyers looking to get out of Dodge. As such, any forecast of future Chinese parity with the United States depends on heroic estimates of China's continued GDP growth. Of course, total size matters. Having a large attractive market and being the largest trading partner for a large number of countries is an important source of Chinese power, but that is not the same as equality.


For example, although China surpassed Germany and the U.S. as the world’s largest trading nation in 2013, Chinese trade in services is lackluster, many exports have low added value. Moreover, China lacks many global brands. Coca-Cola is universally recognized, but how many people can name a Chinese soda brand?


Soft Power
But there’s more to being a superpower than just military prowess. We cannot neglect the importance of cultural power, or “soft” power. Soft power, as defined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye, is just as important as hard power, and in many ways more so. Heck, it helped us win the Cold War. Long before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it had been pierced by American television and movies. Yet few people in those developing nations have fallen in love with China the way they might fall in love with the United States. According to Dr. Nye, whom Chinese officials acknowledge as a guru on the topic, there are three main ways that a country can gain soft power: through its political values, its culture and its foreign policies. But winning on all fronts is not easy. The party knows that its ideology has little chance these days of attracting others. Arguably China’s soft power was stronger in the 1950s and 1960s when Mao, a brutal but charismatic dictator, espoused a socialist Utopia that inspired many people around the world. Nowadays some Chinese academics speak of a “China model”—the winning combination, in their view, of authoritarian politics and somewhat liberal economics (with a big role for the state).


Confucius, condemned by Mao as a peddler of feudal thought, is now being proffered as a sage with a message of harmony. Since 2004 China has established some 500 government-funded “Confucius Institutes” in 140 countries. These offer language classes, host dance troupes and teach Chinese cooking. China has also set up more than 1,000 “Confucius Classroom” arrangements with foreign schools, providing them with teachers, materials and funding to help children learn Mandarin.


In June 2016, Hu's successor, Xi Jinping, criticized the nation's propaganda bureau for failing to reach younger audiences and called on them to be more innovative. The Party's soft power failures are especially visible in the music industry. One of China's most cringe-worthy efforts is a hip-hop music video aimed at millennials abroad, entitled This is China, produced by China's Communist Youth League and the rap group Chengdu Revolution. The video promotes China with rambling lyrics such as, "First things first, we all know that China is a developing country. It has large population and it is really hard to manage," and the gem, "As for scientific achievement, we have [Nobel prize winner] Tu Youyou, who discovered Artemisinin.”


The only way Chinese state media could outdo itself on this one is if it were to, say, promote a rap song praising Karl Marx. When Mr. Nye wrote about soft power, he suggested that governments could not manufacture it. He argued that much of America’s had sprung from its civil society: “everything from universities and foundations to Hollywood and pop culture”. The party is distrustful of civil society; its soft-power building has been almost entirely state-led. China has tried to combine elements of soft power with the hard power of its illiberal politics. Far from enhancing China’s global image, this approach has often served to undermine it.


Take the Confucius Institutes mentioned earlier, for example. In 2007 a senior party leader described these as “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” But many cash-strapped universities have gratefully supplanted their own language courses with ones led (even funded) by Confucius Institutes. China’s efforts to use its global media to paint a rosier picture of the country also face a tough challenge. Its television networks employ foreign anchors (and plenty of panda footage) to try to win audiences abroad.


Thus, it is highly doubtful that China can present a system more workable and universal than democracy and a market economy of the kind you see in Britain and America. Soft power cannot be manufactured at will or forced down someone else’s throat; it must be voluntarily accepted.
In innovation, too, China is encountering difficulties. The major components that enable a country to lead in cutting-edge technology depend on intangible assets, most notably what economists call the forces of agglomeration: systems of property rights and a sophisticated industrial base, full labor markets, an efficient judicial system and flexible organizations, presence of specialized service providers, knowledge spillover and trust embedded within society.


Many authors have contended that open societies, like the US, benefit from these trends vis-à-vis their authoritarian counterparts.As noted international relations scholar Ian Bremmer states, “openness is a measure of the extent to which a nation is in harmony with the crosscurrents of globalization—the processes by which people, ideas, information, goods, and services cross international borders at unprecedented speed.” China has clearly been exceptionally gifted at managing low-and medium-cost technologies ever since globalization has contributed to the spread of technology. It is, in fact, leading the world in patent filings. But patent filings are not, in and of themselves, an accurate indicator of a nation’s level of innovation.


Closer examination of these figures reveals that about 43% of patent filings in China are for non-inventive patents. Called Utility Models, Petty Patents, or Design Patents, these cover only appearances or structural features. and many of these were filed by foreign inventors, not Chinese. And even when a patent filing is for an actual invention, it’s difficult to classify the value of that invention. Some inventions are trivial (like a slight tweak to making a screw thread) and some are important (like cold fusion). In other words, large numbers of filings don’t prove anything one way or the other about creativity and innovation in China. And alongside poor infrastructure, heavy reliance on foreign technology and lack of top-notch R&D capabilities, China also falls short in human capital and investments and is held back by a bloated bureaucracy.


Therefore, the prospect of narrowing the gap is slim—more so now that China is cracking down on VPNs, which might very will trigger another massive brain drain. It will be hard for China to lead in science and innovation, or attract foreign talent, when its scientists and scholars do not have access to the World Wide Web. By contrast, the United States could not have achieved the level of pre-eminence it enjoys today without the pervasiveness of its ideas, products, and image abroad. American popular media and TV stars are everywhere. So are American products, American cars, American fast food chains, and so on and so forth. Even with Trump in the Oval Office, the U.S. is still near the very top of the list when it comes to soft power. This is because the United States, for all its flaws, is quite good at selling its story: a disorganized group of colonies join together in common cause, overthrow the rule of the mightiest empire of the day and go on to enjoy unparalleled success.


Whether the U.S. actually lives up to its ideas of freedom and equality is not the point here; the point is that the vast majority of people around the world like those ideas too, and even the most cynical of America's critics still find the idea of America inspiring. It is therefore almost impossible for it to export its ideas abroad in the way the United States has been able to do, because its global audience--barring a few notable exceptions--is not, as it were, interested in buying. For China's ideas to be accepted by the world at large would require the very ideological fabric of the modern world to be turned on its ear, and that is not likely to happen if history is any indication. The Soviet Union tried to do the same thing for decades during the Cold War.


America’s Enduring Strengths
The United States, on the other hand, enjoys a number of strengths across a broad spectrum. Unlike China, it is not facing population shrinkage, and this is due largely to immigration. America's fertility rate, while higher than that of China and many European countries, is still below the threshold required to avoid shrinkage; about 2.1 children per woman. China is rapidly enhancing its technological inputs, increasing its R&D spending and its numbers of graduates with degrees in science and engineering. But there are limits to how fast any country can leap forward in such matters, and there are various obstacles in China’s way—such as a lack of effective intellectual property protections and inefficient methods of allocating capital—that will be extremely hard to change given its rigid political system.


Adding to the difficulty, China is chasing a moving target. In 2012, the United States spent $79 billion on military R & D, more than 13 times as much as China’s estimated amount, so even rapid Chinese advances might be insufficient to close the gap. Conclusion:
All of this leads us to one inevitable conclusion: that China is in no position to become a superpower, and America, far from in decline, is in a rather comfortable position at the head of the pack. To be sure, there is a frantic, almost panicked desire in certain circles to see U.S. power and prestige take a nose-dive because the American people chose Donald Trump as their president.


But those pushing this narrative are out of touch. Geopolitical reality remains unchanged, and America remains a hegemonic force: It has the largest and best equipped military that secures peace and prosperity from Europe to the South China Sea, the most prestigious university system, the largest consumer market, the largest economy, and it remains the source of much innovation. It still has a commanding lead in many scientific fields and leads the world in many cutting-edge technologies, such as space exploration and artificial intelligence. Nor has Trump diminished America’s broad appeal, if the most recent numbers are anything to go by.


Contrary to many post-election fears, as of this writing both tourism and international student applications to the United States have increased, according to the most recent figures in April and May of 2017, and a recent Gallup poll showed that America continues to be the most favored destination for immigrants around the world. According to the survey, 147 million people worldwide would move to America if given the chance. America is not in decline, and China is not the juggernaut it appears to be.


1.1 Fred Civish(弗莱德.斯威士)
Mar 27 · 2 upvotes including Ethan Young
This is one of the most cogent and wide ranging analyses that I have seen of China and its future military and economic prospects. It should be required reading for everyone. Other authors and students of history are also predicting the end of China’s international influence, but I haven’t seen anyone else bring everything together as well as you have. One last thing. Do not forget that China has built its economy on the strength of its low cost industrial output, which brings in money as they sell their high quality but low priced goods on the world market, with the largest share going to the United States.


But that source of income to China might well change. It is quite possible that in the current political climate, the United States might put increased tariffs on Chinese goods (as well as on other countries), and through tax cuts, tax penalties and other incentives, the current administration is trying to influence U.S. corporations to bring their jobs and their production back home. When you add the effect of future robotics in manufacturing jobs in the U.S., it becomes apparent that in the coming decades, the Chinese are likely to find themselves with a much less lucrative market for their goods. Add this to their developing demographic patterns and China might be in for significant downsizing of their economy.



2. Aaron Lichtig, Lived in Guangzhou, studied a bit of Mandarin(艾伦.李奇格,汉语菜鸟)
Updated Sep 11, 2014 · Upvoted by Marc Bodnick, Harvard Gov major, Stanford PoliSci PhD student
China already is a great power, but it's hard to see it becoming the world's sole super power by 2030. I don't think it wants to take on that role, even if it ends up being the world's most economically and militarily powerful country. China - unlike the US or USSR - doesn't seek to export an ideology or universal system like democracy or communism. The CCP is most concerned with maintaining territorial integrity and making things better for Han Chinese people. If they do these things, they'll stay in power, which is really all they care about. If they overreach and try to police the world, their odds of losing power would actually go up. Success for China over the next 15 years would look like resuming its historical role as the preeminent power in East/SE Asia. To do this, it would have to displace the US, which won't be an easy task.



3. Samuel Lee, American who likes history
Answered Jan 3, 2016(萨缪尔.李,美国的历史爱好者)
If you look at the relative stature of "China" through recorded history, and assume that the current PRC is a legitimate successor to that line of regimes, then it is safe to say that China is destined to be at least a top five power even if it does nothing to distinguish itself, and stays unified. This is probably now also true of the United States as well. We are, for the foreseeable future the preeminent and therefore the representative power of the North American continent. If we currently do nothing to renew the exceptional performance and circumstances of the "American Century", we will slowly slip back to a top five power as well.


So as a sort of abstract baseline, I'd wager that it is the long term destiny for China and USA to be roughly equals in power and influence.Now, the question doesn't ask whether China will merely surpass the USA by 2030, which would merely yield a bipolar world order. (my opinion...maybe, depending on how you measure it), but asks whether China could surpass the USA, and everyone else, to such an extent as to attain a hegemon status in the world order. In order for that to happen, we need to have something that China is truly doing exceptionally. Not just competently, which China has done in many areas, to their credit--but exceptionally. Something that the world looks at in awe, and says, "this is what the future looks like", and willingly passes China the Torch. America had this, in 1900, 1920, 1950. The Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, Rock n' Roll, heck even today's Elon Musk--where are China's versions of these? It can't just be cheap labor, or sheer has to be something extraordinary.


So long story short....I don't see where that is happening in China today. Not yet. Someone please prove me wrong. Maybe it's just too early. Chinese firms and organizations are still methodically moving up the competency chain, making better versions of things that exist. Maybe one day they will start aiming to "break the world". But I don't see any evidence of that today...and so they probably won't be there by 2030.
Edit: I didn't see the subtext about the population theory. Regarding that, I believe population sets a potential for a nation's achievement but consequently increases the challenge in truly reaching that potential. So it's not just a straightforward matter of just scaling everything up...



4. John Lombard, Founder of "The Language of Culture" | Consultant | Speaker(乔恩.伦巴第)
Answered Nov 29, 2016
I sure as hell hope not. In fact, I do not want any country to be a “sole superpower”. History more than adequately demonstrates that when any country gains power over everyone else, they abuse it. This is true of the U.S. It will be true of China if it ever reaches that point. Having two or three countries that share ‘superpower’ status is, in my opinion, the best result we can hope for. Then each country is balanced by the others…they know that they cannot simply do whatever they want, they have to negotiate with and reach agreements with the other superpowers.



5. Leigh Hincks(利.辛克)
Answered Aug 30, 2014
There are many comments that are extremely relevant to the super power status of China. Population is both an asset and a liability. The enormous population has driven the development of China with the assistance of foreign investment. This has particularly come from Japan,which currently has about 80,000 companies operating singularly or in joint ventures. The population will decline shortly with the effects of the one child policy coming to fruition. Once again, an asset and liability. The cost of labour in China has increased enormously over the past 10 years, and even more dramatically over the past 5 years. Even Chinese companies are going off-shore for cheaper labour options.


China has a dearth of resources. Due to its population and it's increase in income of the citizens, it requires a continual increase of energy. 25 million cars were sold in China in 2012-2013. Where does the fuel come from? Yet China has gone on a rampage of aggression with it's neighbours. It has conflict and border disputes with 20 nations which are neighbours or nearby. China has NO allies. Russia is just there to pick up the pieces and step in to the Pacific region, which it has been trying to do for a century.


To be a super power a nation needs to make alliances that are strategically useful. China is incapable of doing this. There is an old Chinese adage, "keep you friends at a distance and have conflict with your neighbours". It is about as stupid an adage as you can get in the modern world. Yet, PRC mouthpieces will still use this.



6. Christopher Strong, Happy-Go-Lucky Scamp
Answered Dec 7(克里斯多夫.斯特朗)
Before last year I would say “no way” but now I'm thinking China will be the world's superpower by default, in one area at least: Soft Power, or the ability to win influence without force or coercion. The Trump presidency has been so catastrophic and destabilizing as far as the US's image abroad, and his random, unpredictable behaviors that do nothing but create global mayhem and hostility (like deciding to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which serves no purpose other than to antagonize the Arab world), belittling allies like Mexico, Australia, Europe, etc.

在去年之前,如果你说这样的话, 我一定会对此嗤之以鼻。但是今天,我认为中国有可能会成为世界上的超级大国。至少从软实力的角度来看,是很有机会的。(软实力:采用说服,而不是武力的方式来达到他的目标)川普总统的当选使得美国在全世界的形象出现了毁灭性的下跌,川普的很多做法毫无章法,他的一系列的行为只能遭受越来越多国家的敌意。他承认耶路撒冷是以色列的首都,这是在于整个阿拉伯世界为敌。此外,川普总统还不断的贬斥我们的盟友,比如墨西哥,澳大利亚,欧洲等。

undoing positive breakthroughs made under the Obama Presidency (Cuba, Iran) just because they were made under Obama, insane domestic policies, and acting like a psychotic toddler on social media; all of these actions serve to neutralize any soft power the US has built over decades or even centuries with other nations. And it's not like there is or should be any sympathy for Americans for allowing this to happen, 3/4 (roughly) of voting adults either stayed home or voted for Trump or voted for some third party idiot vanity candidate, there is no longer enough sane rational adults to stop bad actors from running amok on a political level.


Sure, it's possible that the Mueller investigations will end his presidency, but it might not. Or we might vote in an awesome President in 2020 but by then the damage will be too late to undo (and Congress will stay the same, because of gerrymandering and voter apathy towards midterm elections).Bottom line, the end result I see is the United States with zero or negative soft power internationally.Putin's Russia is also another country that has zero or negative soft power. They tipped the scales in November 2016 to confuse easily-duped Americans and sow chaos and discord by actively working to put Trump in the White House.


The collusion between the Trump people and the Russians, with full support of the FSB, will continue to come to light in the Mueller investigations (again, I can't say what the results will be), their attempts to meddle in other Western democracies are well known, not to mention their illegal annexation of Crimea and their invasion of the Donbass region of Ukraine, and their alliance with Assad in Syria and subsequent brutal treatment of non-Assad, non-ISIL Syrian citizens in places like Aleppo, fomenting discord in Eastern Europe and Baltic States; all of these behaviors do not endear themselves to the rest of the international community. And Putin, like his minion Trump, only has one strategy: to continue to double down, forever.


This is why, at least on a soft power level, I believe China may well end up the world's sole superpower when it comes to soft power (hard power like military and economics are a different story, of course).The beautiful thing about soft power is that any country can participate! All it takes is good and innovative ideas, and a desire to make the planet a better place. At this point in time, however, I don't think the United States or Russia has this capacity any more. China wins by default…and as a bonus, they know exactly what soft power is and how it works!



7. Ben Kelley, Strong interest in geopolitics and defence
Answered Nov 29, 2016(本.凯利)
Firstly I wouldn’t call anything currently a super power. The US was a superpower after the cold war. Every other major nation was in ruins, US was untouched. They had the wealth, the technology, the post WW2 machinery and all the nuclear weapons. They really were a superpower, making up nearly 50% of the worlds GDP. While China is industrializing, things have been getting better every year in China. The economy grows at 6% or more, every year. It seems like this growth is going to go one for ever. Eventually Chinas economy makes up 99% of the worlds economy.


Its doubtful that China will continue to grow at the same rate for the next 20 years. But its in a graph, so has to be true. I doubt China’s economy will ever be two times the size of the US economy. China’s growth is not sustainable, no one ever said it was. Eventually industrializing will slow down, growth will slow. Also China’s population is going to shrink. China’s having its moment in the sun, enjoy it.


Now, China isn’t the only developing country, its not even the going to be the largest. India will end up with a larger population. The US population is going to keep growing. It remains to be seen if China can avoid the economic stagnation of Japan and the problems that is caused.



8. Je Kaire, Thinker, futurist, legal scholar, voracious reader, rocker and Renaissance man.(杰.卡热)
Answered Feb 29, 2016
This is an interesting question, not because of the proposed date, which is impossibly near, but because of the attention it demands to the concept of China and the path of any nation to becoming a sole leader of the world, attracting emulation worldwide by being a superior example of human cooperation and wise possessor of economic and military power. Instead of focusing on ways the United States could decline, the question for me gave rise to thoughts about how China could change. The first doubt I have is that this event could ever occur with its current form of central government.


Succession of power in China is determined by the precarious hold on,the government its current leadership has. When scandal or death rocks the national boat, a scramble takes place to form a new governing panel and allocation of duties, without any legal framework, so that the most machiavellian plotter is likely to dominate the process to become either the leader or the proclaimed leader's key supporter. Look to history, especially the history of leadership in imperial Rome and its succession of emperors, and the history of control of communist Russia. The history of the Vatican papacy prior to its rigid conformance to the Cardinals' election procedures will also be instructive on how things can go badly.


China could use a written constitution and an independent judiciary appointed for life to interpret and enforce it's strictures. Such separation of powers and constitutional regulation might be a foundation for a permanent rise to power. It is often ignored that China internally is an amalgamation of provinces and ethnic groups with different geography, languages, histories, cultures and economic interests. It is held together by powerful and dogmatic leadership which threatens dissenters and civil disobedience; but the resentment caused by constrained urges for different policies in the provinces cannot be eliminated in this way. Improving education of the citizens will only lead to their greater awareness of inequalities and and more internal dissatisfaction with the nation. This is definitely a problem which will become larger with economic success; until it dwarfs the concerns China has with the rest of the world. I think China may follow a long term path leading to its division into multiple and separate nations based on the divergent interests of its people. This does not have to be acrimonious, they could cooperate like the members of the British commonwealth did and do, but with the current central form of government rising expectations and awareness of inequalities may lead to civil war. The historical basis for the American civil war was the South's realization that it was about to lose any control over the national policies of the USA because it would forever in the future represent a minority in the congress as more non-slave states were admitted to the union. A disgruntled minority without hope for political control always leads to the thought of leaving the national entity. Another example is the American Revolutionary War. Some big internal changes are ahead for China over the next 100 years which I believe will make the above question moot. The options for the future are many; but sole leader of the world is very unlikely.I hope the direction taken internally will foster peace, happiness and improved economic circumstances in China and worldwide.



9. Siddharth Pathak, Hindi Chini bhai bhai
Answered Aug 29, 2016(桑迪哈斯.帕沙克)
The problem behind this question is the same that plagues all of the perspectives on the world from the West - the assumption that the rest of the world somehow looks with a distinctly Western notion. It doesn't.The era of the West's primacy over the world will most likely die a natural death with the dissolution of Pax Americana. There's not going to be another power looking to partake in the relay, continuing the current status quo structure of world polity. China isn't by any means seduced to maintain the power held by the US. Neither is Russia, India or Iran.


They do not share the same obsession of dictating the world what standards the domestic societies ought to be held, and ironically each has been dealt bad hands through such policies. It seems absurd that the Chinese - themselves the recipient of an excruciatingly arrogant, horrible war in the 1850s over their internal affairs - would even fathom to engage in such businesses yo other hapless nations. The world is going back to the multipolar structure, which the former Russian Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov conceived in the midst of the evisceration of his society in the 90s.What is likely to be seen is the usage of the colonial narratives by the resurgent powers, which were former colonies, as a justification to break apart the current unipolar order. To paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, the former colonies are goig to present the bill for the indulgence the European powers had, often at the expense of their colonies.


So the more apt question isn't whether China is going to replace US as a superpower, but that of how large of a magnitude is the drastic shift in power going to be for the Western powers which are used to having their ways.


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