China, the next economic giant; America, the next has-been?

Call it my lazy undesired American pride or whatever, but I am quite concerned about allusions as to what I posted in the title. That America is going to become a lot less economically powerful while China is going to be where we are in a few years. Do you think that this is happening? Also, whether this is a problem or not? Why?

I’d normally ask this in General Questions, but, I’m sure this is guaranteed to spark controversy inthe first place.

It’s certainly overstated. The future is never clear. America is growing about as fast as it can. Simply put, it’s not easy to go up when you’re at the top. OTOH, Historically, the most powerful nations have not always been the largest. China is certainly groqwing, but it’s unclear how this will affect China. Frankly, th way things are going, I predict a total political realignment in China within the next 50 years. How things will turn out is unknown to me.

Still, it seems clear that China cannot continue to grow at its current rate without unleashing some very destabilizing political forces, forces which are already starting to cause internal conflict. SImply put, they probably can’t run a country that big, with one dictatorial government, with economic freedom.

I’m well aware of the example you gave, but I was under the impression that was the only one? Can you think of others?

Wasn’t it Kissinger who proposed that in the near future there would be a realignment towards a multipolar political stage? I believe he said it would be comprised of a less prominent America, a more prominent China, a European amalgamate of some type, the Indians, and the Japanese. Power would be split roughly evenly between the five mini-powers.

Of course, your question pertains more to the economic subset of the political equation, but I think Kissinger’s analysis is a good one, and probably applicable here. At any rate, I think the day of true superpowers is long past, and we’ll see a shift towards a more distributed power base. I just have a hard time seeing China usurping America altogether without any of the other international actors not stepping in to take part of that role.

Usually I hear the opposite theory esposed, that economic growth in China has prevented political unrest of the kind seen during the T Square demonstrations. The Chinese people have put thier hopes in the future into improving their economic standings, rather then in overthrowing their corrupt gov’t, which has led to a people who, if not happy with their gov’t, at least not willing to risk overthrowing it.

So instead of continued growth leading to the end of the current gov’t, I predict the opposite will happen. When the Chinese economy hits a rough patch (as all economies, even very successful ones do from time to time) the people will see their visions of economic success and a chicken dumpling in every pot dissappear, and will turn to political unrest to change thier lot in life. Given the regions history of extremely violent civil wars and the like, I fear it won’t be as bloodless a change of power as that of the Soviet Union and it’s sattelites.

I think eventually Nafta will strengthen as our leverage over the world economy weakens.
China is ascending but can it maintain?
Will the EU start working as an economic force or continue to preen over position in the EU instead.
The economies of US & Canada are so tight that we may work even more laws in place to allow the 2 governments to function as one economy. I think Mexico might be a willing partner just to strengthen its own economy. Eventually there would be a North American union to compete with the EU & China.

The only sure thing in economics is that it is impossible to predict what will happen beyond a year or two at most.


I understand the logic behind the theory, but it doesn’t make historic sense. Revolt and revolution are not common among the downtrodden and repressed. Instead, it beomes common among the downtrodden and repressed who are on their way up. It is as individuals become more concerned about what hapens next year than whether or not they eat tommorow that they become politically active.

Indeed, looking at China during the 20th century, it was during the periods of economic laxity and hence growth that internal strife became open. When one group was firmly in power, and using that power to keep potential enemies down, no one else wanted to step up to the hit list. Only now are the Chinese starting to stand up and demanding more, I think a legacy of the widespread dissatisfaction and cynicism among the young. This actually corresponds very closely in time with Generation “X” in the US.

Didn’t we used to hear the same sort of predictions about Japan superceding the US not so long ago?

That was always refuted as garbage. They just didn’t have the resources to do so. I don’t know anybody who took it seriously. China at least has a reasonable chance.
Do you know anyone who took the Japanese threat seriously?
If so, did you respect their position or think they were just parroting some sensational headlines?


China, India Superpower? Not so Fast!

My view is that since China is 1.3 billion people that this won’t really happen. There were alot of ‘asian tiger’ countries (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong) that went from being dirt poor third world countries into countries that are per capita about on par with Europe in about 30-40 years. Israel would be considered one of these countries too that became developed pretty quickly.

However these are small countries with export based economies. They got rich exporting stuff to the developed world. I don’t think there is a market for enough Chinese goods for the Chinese economy to ever catch up to the developed world.

Then again, China is growing at about 8-10% a year and has been for a while. South Korea went from dirt poor to developed nation status in about 30 years with economic growth in the 10-12% range.

I for one welcome our new communist overlords.

While I believe that Chian will get richer, the growth rates are not neccessary a reliable indicator of wealth or power. During the Cold War, most Communist countries posted amazing growth rates. Nor were these in all cases false. But the growth was uneven, often focused in the wrong areas, and did not translate into real economic progress. Today, they are much better, but still retain too many of the bad habits of yesteryear.

Still, I’d give China props over India any day of the week. India has a history of tepid socialism, which is probably one of the reasons it was held back so much in the modern era.

Thanks for making the point that a Communist oligarchy and a capitalist oligarchy are pretty much the same thing, if in a left-handed way and unintentionally.

In addition to what was posted by Rune above, add this: all over the 'Net people have been discussing how China will grow old before it gets rich. I read a paper on this a while back, and it made the Financial Times a short time ago.
For reference, this Newsweek story I found is pretty good on the subject:

This is a serious problem, because China is way down on the economic food chain, and its people mostly engage in work that is more physically strenuous than the average for here in the US. So while we may be able to reasonably debate raising the retirement age, China simply doesn’t have that option: old people can’t do a lot of the work that is done in China.

– Regionalism. China is not and never has been an ethnically homogenous state (despite centuries of effort to make it so), and the explosive growth of the last few decades has mostly been located in just a few provinces. Shanghai is first world, Gansu is third world, and Beijing may not be able to hold it together.

– the People’s Liberation Army is not just an army as westerners concieve of it. They also are a huge business conglomerate that owns hundreds of factories and businesses. This causes complications in the process of a conversion to capitalism.

– in addition to the startling demographics pantom gives, there is the growing problem of the male/female ratio (119 to 100, IIRC). Nobody knows what this will do.

China has approximately 5 times the population of the US. For the Chinese economy to be the same size as the US economy then China would need a per capita GNP of only 20% of the US per capita GNP. anything above that will mean that the Chinese economy will be larger than that of the US. The Chinese economy is growing very fast these days. So unless China disintegrates into several smaller countries in the future China will become the world’s largest economy. But then there is still India with 3 to 4 times the population of the US.

I think that in 100 years from now the US will be in a similar position to the UK today - a former world beating super power that still has a great deal of economic might.


Glad you mentioned this issue - something I hadn’t thought about until I read the excerpt you posted on your livejournal. Would be interesting to see what India’s demographics project to. I suspect that their population makeup is much younger. Of course, their population is growing at a faster rate than China - not clear how this affects their overall growth potential.

I’ve suspected for a while that while China’s rise to power will have economic impacts over the ensuing decades, India’s rise to prominance may well surpass China’s (and may likely be longer lasting).

There is another aspect to this largely unmentioned, but to those of us who lean a bit Greenish, very important: China is an ecological disaster in the making. If they can get away with it, we probably can too. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

The key to dominance is ratio of natural resourses.
We have a lot more stuff per person, forest stuff, hydo power stuff, etc.
As China gears up, in order to grow it might have to do what we did in the growth years-
use dominance to get natural resources from other countries at below value. This was what created the boom times for the colonial powers and it’s like we did with oil in the 50s.

I think we are gradually moving to a multipolar world. If you track history you notice that in multipolar systems, the parties are actively working to set themselves up as top dog, and in effect establish a unipolar system. And the trend has been long periods of multipolarity, eventually one power consolidates and becomes hegemon, then after another period of time the hegemon loses power and we go back to a multipolar state.

Of course during the Cold War we had the unique system of a bipolar world, with arguably two hegemons both of whom had various weaker states under their influence.

Is this bad or good?

Bad from a humanitarian stand point. Historically changes from a unipolar to multipolar world have always sort of taken the form of warfare. And multipolar systems are much more unstable than unipolar or bipolar ones. Warfare in a multipolar world will be more frequent than in a unipolar world.

So while you may think we’ve got a lot of conflicts going on right now, arguably it could get a lot worse once there’s no more superpower.