China Appears to be a Rising Superpower. Is China the New Geopolitical Boss?
If you have been following current global political developments, you must have read about the change in the world system with the rise and fall of powers. Over the last couple of decades, the world has seen the US as a superpower with economic and military power that allowed the US to have a hold of the global geopolitical dynamics. However, things have started to change in the last decade. China appears to be a rising superpower because of various factors that are now working together in favour of China.
The Factors that Make Countries Powerful in International Politics
The first and foremost source of power for any country is its economic strength. A strong economy is essential for a country’s domestic development. It helps the country to develop its infrastructure of the country and focus on the educational, health, and social development of the country. Similarly, a country with a strong economy has the power to make decisions on international issues and politics. This is why for a long time, the US has the most decision-making power in the United Nations and other global platforms. A strong economy builds nations and helps lift the living standards of the people. It is also directly and indirectly linked with moulding the morals of the public. It helps to reduce poverty in a country. It secures the public with social services and a democratic and constitutional structure. Most importantly, it defends the country against international influences.
The Military also plays an important role in the power of the country. As military power is important in the world today, it has been since always; it allows the country to physically defend itself. More than actual power, which the military brings without any doubt, it is more of a power show in international politics. It helps the country to show a brave face to the world in order to protect itself from external and internal enemies. The US has had a heads-up in this regard as well. A large sum of a country’s economic power goes into building military power. So, it becomes a loop that can break easily if there is no constant supply of economic power.
Another less-talked factor plays an important role in a country’s power dynamic. It is the education and research sector of a country. The US has been doing great in this area. Not only does the US invest a lot in its research and development but it also caters to many educational scholarships for international students. This allows the US to gather the right people and ideas which further helps in their development and research. Moreover, the world’s top universities and research institutes are also present in the US because of the huge economy. The stronger economies have more foreign student enrollment as they can provide more resources to them. This starts a sustainable economic loop for the country. However, even the educational and research development of the country requires economic power like many other factors that make the economy of a country the most important aspect of gaining power in global politics.
In this arena, China appears to be a rising superpower on the global geopolitical stage because of its exponential economic growth. China’s consistent and rapid growth in the economy is known to all. China was once facing a crippling economy in the late 90s and it had to take immediate steps to boost the economic condition of the country. China refused to take shortcuts for their economy and instead opted for a long-term solution. One of the policies that helped China boost its export was to keep its currency steady. By doing so, China benefited from international trade. Experts say that China made a bold move by doing this instead of devaluing its currency just like any other country would have done to gain its export competitiveness in the international market. This move not only helped China but also helped the Asian economic crisis. As Paul Gruenwald, a chief economist and former IMF official say “Everyone was nervous the Asian Crisis was going to escalate, so the fact that China held the exchange rate steady was a great source of stability for the region”.
Moreover, China focused on its home industry and technological advancement which it famously learned from the US gathered. The trade embargos were set on China for its association with communism in the past and the socialist political structure did not allow Chinese officials and businesses to lose hope. Despite the restrictions and negative propaganda against China, it rose back and it continues to do so. These reasons force the world to think China appears to be a rising superpower.
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Is China’s Progressing towards Economic Overtake?
All the traits that strong economies are supposed to have are also associated with China. The developed infrastructure, growing business, rising international trade, technological advancement, etc. China dived right into the technology sector to support its economy, which has opened doors for China internationally. China saw the future of technology and equipped the whole country with advanced telecommunication, steady internet, and fiber optic cables all around the country immediately. It furthered economic growth by creating many domestic businesses and jobs. This economic adoption normally takes years for other countries, which China accomplished in a few. This is another reason China appears to be a rising superpower because of its high-end technology. China is said to be the second largest economy in the world with a large annual growth. China’s annual GDP growth has been increasing exponentially with a 2.3% of annual growth. Even during COVID, the GDP growth was not disturbed a lot as compared to other countries with a 2% growth. The figure below shows a comparison of China’s economic growth with the current superpower – the US.
Figure 1 Source: International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook database April 2022
Figure 1 gives a clear picture of China’s growth has tripled in a span of a few years as compared to the US growth as not as fast as China’s. Moreover, the US economy seems to be suffering and showed a big dip in GDP (-3.5%) in 2020. These facts give a picture that China appears to be a rising superpower and it will soon catch up to the US in terms of its economic power.
On the other hand, China has been investing a lot in foreign investments mostly for infrastructure development projects. These projects are curated to ultimately benefit the Chinese economy and increase the trade flow in Asia. One of the biggest Chinese ongoing projects is under the umbrella of the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) which is worth 8 trillion USD. The project includes trade routes connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa. The goal is to link these routes with the Silk road and have an alternate option for China for its trade. These projects will not only further boost China’s economy but will also benefit the Asian countries that will directly be linked to the project. Hence, increasing the region’s economy. For this reason, the west has been trying to sabotage the project to stop China’s growing influence in the region.
China’s Geopolitical Influence
China appears to be a rising superpower as it seems to be enjoying many other privileges that come with economic power. The growing influence of China in the world has had the US worried. China has also been using this power to gather support and make its political bloc to counter the US hegemony. It was worrisome for America when China first proposed the idea of trading in the regional currency instead of the dollar. It also initiated the talks of breaking the petro-dollar monopoly by involving the Middle East to trade petrol in regional currency. Russia also backed up this idea. This can not only strengthen the regional economy and ties but also break the dollar supremacy, ultimately breaking the US hegemony.
On one hand, where China is doing things right, hitting the nails on the head by investing the money, influence, and energies in the right direction. On the other hand, the US is doing the opposite. The US has always been acting like an intrusive neighbour that intrudes in everyone’s business and messes things up. Now the veil of innocence has been lifted off of its face. The growing resentment against the US for invading many countries and leaving them in worse conditions seems to be acting as negative marketing. The most recent example – departure of military forces from Afghanistan after the “war of terror” has allowed the world to see wrongs.
The show of US military power was quite apparent in the way the US has had many invasions and military engagements around the world. It has many active military bases in different countries. However, this too has been facing a low. It may be because of two reasons: either they have completed their agendas or the low economy is unable to support military resources. Contrary to this, China’s growing power has a modern touch as it does not involve military invasions. It is moving away from the conventional games of the throne through invasions and wars. Even though the history of Chinese emperors showed the use of power and force for expansion. Current China is mainly focused on investment and connectivity projects. So, it hits like a breath of fresh air for many countries that can benefit greatly through these projects.
As mentioned above, the factors that make a country powerful in the modern geopolitical competition, China seems to be ticking all the right boxes. However, it is never certain what the future holds for all of us. Judging by the current facts, China appears to be a rising superpower. But there is nothing wrong with breaking one country’s hegemony, that is how the world works – countries rise and fall. The right question should be ‘what the future will be like when China comes to power?’ Will it follow its legacy by using hard power or will it retort to a pacifist approach which it is doing at the moment?
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