Today, it's impossible not to agree with the predictions of China's specialists. Justin Lin Yifu, the former Chief Economist of the World Bank, sums it up this way: "Throughout just over two millennia—from antiquity to the mid-19th century—China has had the world's greatest economic power, the largest contiguous economic zone, the highest per capita income, and the highest standard of living."
China's current situation will be compared and analysed with reference to the progression of the United States as an international superpower during and after the Cold War against the Soviet Union, following the latter's collapse. The post-Cold War United States is the most apt comparison with China, as it represents the most recent period in history when global polarity changed.
In the post-Cold War era, the United States moved from a bipolar system, in which the United States and the Soviet Union shared power and influence, to a unipolar system, in which the United States alone occupied the position of superpower. During this period, the USA used an expanding economy, an advanced military, and international engagement to advance its superpower influence internationally. This influence increased after the fall of the Soviet
Union, leaving the USA as the sole superpower and transforming the polarity into a unipolar system.
China's status is important because it affects not only China's role in the world but also the global community by determining which nations hold power and influence at the international level. An examination of China's current economic, military, and diplomatic factors in relation to the United States during the
Cold War shows that China has not yet achieved superpower status or changed polarity but may do so in the future. To illustrate China's emerging superpower status, this thesis will first examine the various works already formulated on this subject and explain how it differ from and enrich the pre-existing literature.
Furthermore, it will explain the framework within which it will operate and the determining factors for achieving superpower status that will be prioritised, including the economy, the military, and international involvement in organisations and decision-making. Following the framework, this thesis will then discuss a relevant case study, the United States, and its importance in terms of identifying the three determining factors: the economy, the military, and international involvement, in organisations and decision-making.
Following the framework, this thesis will then discuss a relevant case study, the United States, and its importance in terms of identifying the three determining factors: the economy, the military, and international involvement. Next, this thesis will analyse China in comparison with the United States and, finally, conclude that China has not yet become a superpower or changed its polarity. After Mao's death, a change in economic policy took place in 1978,
when the policy of reform and opening-up was launched under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Its success can be attributed, among other things, to the gradual approach to reform, in contrast to the "shock therapy" (Jeffrey Sachs) chosen by the former Soviet Union.
Internal problems such as endemic corruption, rapid population growth, and Western-fueled opium consumption led to the fall of the Chinese empire in the mid-19th century, culminating in the Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860). The Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) marked the culmination of this process, following which Western countries forced China to open to foreign trade. Only the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 put an end to this semi-colonial state (Mao Zedong) and thus to the "century of humiliations" (Oskar Weggel). During the subsequent Mao Zedong era, phases of chaos and stagnation alternated on the domestic front, with phases of political stability and economic recovery until 1976.
Externally, China was once again able to define its own relations with other countries. In terms of foreign policy, this development had already laid important groundwork for the "policy of reform and opening up (gaige kaifang zhengce)", which was to help the "Middle Kingdom" promote its re-ascendancy in the world economy.
China does not enjoy the same support as the United States on the international stage. Although they are well established in Asian countries, Western countries do not accord them the same respect or value as they do in China. Western countries do not accord China the same respect or value as they do the United States. From this point of view, China will not be able to claim its place as a superpower without the support of Western countries. In military terms, China is no match for the United States.
Russia has not been an economic superpower since it lost control of most of the Eastern European states and many parts of Central Europe and Asia of the former Soviet Union. Russia has long lagged behind in terms of total economic growth, trade, research and development, and all other major areas of economic strength. Russia's size, geographical position, and substantial oil and gas reserves, however, still make it a leading world power.
However, current trends explain only part of the picture. Any analysis of economic and civil power will be influenced by many key trends that cannot be quantified. These include the long-term impact of economic tensions between and within developed states, the impact of domestic politics, the impact of demographic change and population pressure, and the impact of global warming. There is also the question of the extent to which developed democracies
will be able to cooperate and create truly functional strategic economic partnerships.
To date, governments have often relied much more on the rhetoric of such cooperation than on tangible action, although there are also positive indicators.
None of the graphs in the analysis include the developing world. In these countries, the distribution of international economic power has generally favoured the developed world. As reports from the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and a large number of NGOs make clear, many states have failed to progress towards effective development and face major challenges linked to failed or corrupt governance, internal repression and division, population pressure, limited water supplies, and climate change.
Despite all the rhetoric about globalism, this concerns at least a third of the world's nations. India's attempts to balance relations between Myanmar and Bangladesh against a backdrop of growing Chinese influence in both countries represent a major challenge to its "neighbourhood first" policy. India and China will be taking a close interest. India is seeking to balance relations between two of its neighbours, Buddhist-majority Myanmar and Bangladesh, which are strained by the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
India and China will continue to follow their distinct approaches to the security and humanitarian situation in Rakhine State. These approaches may have similarities and could eventually lead to close convergences, as their various informal summits have shown. However, these convergences are unlikely to outweigh the general unease between India and China. Finally, in terms of its national army, China is not in a position to match the numbers and weaponry of the United States. All in all, according to this point of view, China has become a preponderant power in Asia. However, when it comes to extending its domination to the rest of the world, will China fail.
The writer is a Geneva-based private banking compliance security expert, columnist and poet