What will the world be like when China and India are military/economic superpowers?

They’ll get there before too long. How will they act, as superpowers? How will the world adjust?

do you mean when their economies start weighing the markets or when they start behaving like pricks? Will they ever be granted seats in the Security Council of the UN? Allowed to push international policy?

How do we know that China or India will become “superpowers”?

You can’t extrapolate linearly from current trends.

Russia was a military superpower but a third world country economically. Now they’re a second-rate power militaryily and a third world country economically. Why didn’t they continue the previous trend? How did Russia become ranked as a superpower in the first place?

For China or India to become a military superpower they would have to have the capability to project military force beyond their borders. They would have to have an armaments industry and use that armaments industry as a method of bribery to create client states. They would need a gigantic nuclear arsenal that could obliterate any country or combination of countries on earth. India has a few nukes that are reserved for deterrence against Pakistan. China has hundreds of nukes but no ICBMs.

And is this going to mean conflict with each other, or the United States, or the EU? If neither state sees military conflict with the United States as likely, why would they spend enough to create a superpower level military? What do they hope to use this military for? The Soviet Union wanted to dominate Europe and spread communist dictatorship in the third world, and deter the US and Western Europe from having the ability to threaten military force against them.

Are we imagining an economic collapse in the US and/or Europe? Why won’t that lead to an economic collapse in export reliant China, or service exporting India?

Anyway, it’s far more likely that neither India or China will become “superpowers” like the USSR was and the US still is. They are far more likely to want to achieve the status of normal countries. And they are wracked by internal conflicts that won’t go away easily, China especially, that could derail their current economic booms. Booms don’t last forever, and no one knows what the bust will look like. Civil war? Communist officials hanging from lampposts? Transition to liberal democracy? Nuclear war with Russia?

China already has a permenant seat with veto power. I belive this dates back to when the UN was founded.

I expect it will happen because they’re both huge, highly and anciently civilized countries that are finally getting their act together. Booming economies, vast resources, vaster labor forces, now the homes of much original scientific and technological research. And it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they really, really, want to be superpowers – China in particular wanting to reclaim its historic role as the hegemonic core state of East Asia.

I doubt there will be a revolution in China, either. Their government is too strong and determined, and the Chinese have been putting up with authoritarian governments for more than 2,000 years. I just met a (white colonial) woman from Hong Kong last night. She remembered the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, and said when the tanks finally rolled in, she was only surprised it took so long; she had been expecting it for two weeks.

Interesting question. On a related note, will we expect to see increased multinational/regional blocs along the lines of the EU. I know they voted to not commingle defense, but 5 decades ago did we really expect the euro?

If SE asia, S. America, and portions of Africa got their shit together they could be forces to cope with.

I think that traditional military might is waning in determining global primacy, with economy power becoming more and more determinative.

SA is working on an economic union, but there have been stumbling blocks, mainly over how it would relate to the U.S., and to neoliberal economic globalism generally.

Africa has a much longer way to go. The African Union already exists but it’s little more than a talking-shop. Remember, the EU could not emerge until all the West European nations had entirely gotten past having international wars, civil wars and revolutions.

SE Asia – again, ASEAN already exists, but see above. Maybe they might form a real union, if only in defense (military and/or economic) against China; but they’d have to, again, get past Burma’s military dictatorship, Indonesia’s religious and ethnic strife, etc. If they did form a union, I wonder if Australia and NZ would join?

I think that they will be a great calming force in the international arena.

One major difference that I see in those two cultures is a lack of global ambitions. They do not want ‘superpower’ status to inflict their culture and mores on the rest of the world the way Europe did in previous centuries, the way Japan and the Soviets tried to do last century, and the way the US is still trying to do so. They want merely to be India and China. They want to be treated as equals at minimum. Any push they make on international policies will be with that goal in mind, not to make the world in their image. And with their domestic situations, I cant see them devoting the resources to become global military powers. Both cultures have been around long enough to know that such a goal is foolish, and their internal development will be the highest priority for at least a few generations. But they (rightfully, IMHO) refuse to be treated a second-class citizens anymore.

Slight hijack, I think the model of global hegemons will fade away in this century also. The world is going to tell the US to send all of its troops home as soon as the Korean and Taiwanese questions are resolved - and they cannot continue to be unresolved for much longer. The risks to the global economy will become too great. And some form of a UN navy will replace the US navy as protector of the shipping lanes (further hijack, the US should just offer to subcontract for the job as a transitional phase. The politics of that I leave for others.)

Are they perfect? Hell no, but no one is. Yes, China’s government has abused human rights. So has the US, even before this administration.

I think that India will insist on a seat on the Security Council soon (as opposed to politely requesting one), and it should be granted. Both Britain and China have given their backing also.

But back to the main point, the policies of essentially non-interference and equal parity will also encourage other regions and blocs to follow the same. South America is well on that road. Other major differences with the past are that information is more readily available to expose atrocities and encourage reform, and that modern military methods also seem to be less effective in resolving modern disputes. (They can win the war, but they cant win the peace.) Economic and social development take priority now over ambitions of power and open societies discourage the kind of game playing that led to WWI and WWII.

China and India were the great economic powers of the world before the current Western-dominated era, and they will be again at some point in the future. If you just look at a map of the world, you can figure out pretty quickly that the Americas, all of us, including the US, will be an insignificant backwater in such a world. Europe will be a peripheral player. Won’t mean we’ll be desperately poor, just means we’ll be trying to find a way to curry favor with one or the other, because the center of gravity for the world will be in Asia, rather than Europe or the US.

Project much? I don’t understand where you get your basis for this change of fortune.

Of course, they might just end up going to nuclear war with each other. That’d slow them down a bit.

China has backed India getting a permenant seat but not gaining the veto power of the other permenant members. I doubt India will accept such a compromise (since the veto is the main perk of membership and sort of a badge of superpowerdom) and China won’t support a country with which it has disputed borders and is a possible future rival gettng a veto.

In short, I doubt we’ll see India with a permenant seat in the near future.

And, “project much”? Huh? Is that some weird attempt at 99-cent bin psychoanalysis or something? Please explain.

What precisely in “history” convinces you of your belief? You said, “If you just look at a map of the world, you can figure out pretty quickly that the Americas, all of us, including the US, will be an insignificant backwater in such a world.” What on a world map establishes this claim? If you had looked at that same map 7,000 years ago, could you have predicted the dominance of Europe? If so, why will that change? If not, how does looking at a map make you confident of Europe’s decline?

indeed, Mr. thread’s official UN fun fact provider :slight_smile:

My point is, we can see superpowerdom is a club and the only thing that gets you in is the acceptance of the current members.

or we can see superpowerdom as a *de facto * thing where you are one when you just have the market muscle to shape world dynamics.

Which one are we talking about?

Do you have a cite for that? The articles I’ve read have mentioned no caveats regarding China. I dont think the reasons you gave for China not supporting a veto are dealbreakers either.

Their border dispute has been essentially resolved, and they are not going to risk any major disruptions over a few kilometers in the Himalayas. China views India far more as an ally against Western and other powers than as a rival. (China has and will continue to view Japan as their main rival, not India. Cite.) The same Himalayas act as a fairly good division for their respective spheres of influence, as they have throughout their histories.

I don’t see India nad China as global superpowers-not for a long time. they will be regional powers-but both have rather fragile economies (in my opinion):
-China has a big manufacturing sector, based upon export to the west. take that away, and its pretty poor.
-both countries are edging toward food dependence upon the west-China is now a net grain importer
-both countries have rural areas that are third-world-India hasn’t got safe drinking water for half its population.
I think the biggest mistake these countries could make, would be to spend a fortune on its military-look at us! We have the world’s most powerful military, but our infrastructure is crumbling!

Look, for India or China to be superpowers, their economies would have to be nearly as large as America’s.

And they are incredibly poor compared to Europe, or even South America. Take a look at these tables. The first is a list of GDP per capita, the second with GDP ajusted by purchasing power parity (PPP).


India is POOR. Desperately poor, with a GDP of $US 705 per capita. Even adjusted for PPP the figure is $US 3320 per capita. That ain’t exactly an economic powerhouse. What’s ecouraging is that India’s economy is improving…but they’ve got a long way to go to match MEXICO, let alone Europe or the US. And almost all the improvments in the economy of India will (hopefully) be used to improve the life of the Indian peasantry, not funding a vast military machine.

So yeah, India is a big country with a lot of people, China is a big country with a lot of people. But they are still third world countries. Will that change someday? Sure, and I hope it does. But “Superpower” status implies something more than being a large country. The USSR was a superpower, Russia is not. And why is that? Because the war machine the Soviet Union used to maintain was allowed to rust into oblivion because it was useless. Russia is still a “power” but not a superpower.

The United States is the third most populous country in the world and has one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world. And any hypothetical economic downturn that ruins the economy of the United States is going to affect economic growth in India and China even more strongly, since the Chinese economy is dependent on exports. If Europe and the US tank, China has no one to sell to, and all those new factories close and all those factory workers are on the streets.

Of course 100 years from now, or even 50 years from now, we can predict that China and India will be stronger both relatively and absolutely than they are now. But that’s not a given. 50 years from now there might not even be a country known as “India”. War between Pakistan and India isn’t just a possibility, on a 50 year time scale it is LIKELY. And who can tell what the consequences of such a war might be?

Liberal democracy and capitalist economics are lifting India and China out of desperate poverty. Those trends could continue, but they aren’t guaranteed to continue. History is full of countries that threw away their prosperity pursuing foolish dreams. Of course the United States isn’t immune from making mistakes either. But an impoverished and declining United States doesn’t make India and China wealthier, except in relative terms. In fact, it makes them poorer. And of course, the converse is also true, a wealthy and prosperous India and China help to make the United States wealthy.


China has no ICBMs? This will come as a surprise to the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Peoples’ Liberation Army who field the Dongfeng-5 (capable of reaching all areas of India and the former Soviet Union and parts of the western United States), as well as several IRBMs. The number of weapons China has is questionable (estimates range from ~100 to 2000) and the number of ICBMs is between four and a few dozen, but they can definitely project at least a limited amount of power beyond their borders, and seem intent upon amplifying that capabilty.

However, I agree with Lemur866 that neither China nor India, or indeed, any other nation, will become the kind of military superpower the US and the USSR were, and it’s questionable that either nation will become the dominant economic superpower. China’s current economic position is based upon growth into market areas being abandoned by more developed nations, and India (among other nations) is picking up the trail behind China. There’s a restriction to how much they can continue to develop before they hit resource limits and/or meet economic demand. Someone else noted that China seems ready to implode; I think that might be somewhat hyperbolic, but they cannot enjoy the kind of growth that, say, the US did in power-WWII era.

The emergence of the US and USSR as military superpowers in the post-WWII timeframe was a result of the particular conditions that existed. In truth, the Soviets had neither military nor economic parity with the West, and had they not been allowed (by treaty) to establish puppet governments in the satellite nations of the Warsaw Pact, it seems unlikely that they would have become all that important on the world theater. (Certainly they weren’t considered very important or particularly threatening before the war.) US superiority came from having industrialized for the war effort but not impacted by the actual war; surplus production capacity came in the form of luxury items (cars, refrigerators, automatic washing machines, et cetera) that Europe didn’t see en masse for a couple of decades. And the US maintained military superiority as a sort of de facto state of affairs; we have a strong military, therefore we need a strong military, which is the sort of logic Eisenhower was warning of in his famous “Military Industial Complex” speech. In the post-Cold War era, our military (all branches) has become a shadow of its former self and is in fact at the lowest operational level since the Fifties, despite a large ongoing war effort. The US is still a military superpower in relative terms, but compared to the US DoD of, say, 1987, we’re clearly a second-rate force.

It’s tempting to refer to any nation with a significant nuclear arsenal as a military superpower, 'caues that’s been an essential definition in the past, but while the US and Russia maintain substantial (although dramatically reduced) nuclear arsenals, both the logic and deterrent effect of what SecDef Robert McNamara referred to as “assured destruction” (and others later mockingly referred to as “Mutually Assured Destruction”) has been undercut by the increasing number of small but potentially destructive nuclear arsenals held by other nations. When it was just the UK (as essentially an extension of US and NATO strategic plans) and France (who seemed to pursue it mostly as a status symbol) the effect of additional nuclear powers was minimal, but now fears that a small regional nuclear conflict could conflagrate a multiparty cascading exchange makes nuclear parity almost pointless. China, with a handful of nukes, could be just as dangerous as Russia with thousands.

In the future, it seems unlikely that one or two nations will come to dominate, especially if they fail to take into account the interests and concerns of would-be allies. As a hypothetical case, a former superpower who unilaterially declares war on an independent nation in contravention to majority world opinion may find itself with limited influence and support regarding other issues on the world scene, and regardless of the strength of its military forces or size of nuclear arsenal will become isolated and ineffectual. Even if this were to happen, though, it’s not as if a nation like China or India will neatly slip into the role, but rather that they’ll be able to play a more significant part in the entire play. Instead of the stage being dominated by Hamlet and Claudius, we get Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

Economically, no nation will dominate the way the US did in post-WWII. The US was the center of technological development, a throne we’ve since ceded to any number of Pacific Rim and European nations. We’re still pretty well thought of as a place to learn and research new technology (though we’re quickly eroding on the latter due to certain anti-scientific, anti-intellectual sentiments among more socially conservative elements) but actual development and production, and profits therefrom, seem to be done elsewhere. We can only sell real estate back and forth to each other at a substantial markup for so long before it becomes a silly, pointless game of artificially inflating our economic worth.