Will China become the primary world power?

I’ve heard a lot about the rise of China, as I’m sure everyone else has. It’s now arguably the largest economy in the world, depending on different statistics comparing it to the United States.

Do you think its economy will continue to grow until it is as rich per capita as the US (making it 4 times bigger than it is now)? Will the world end up watching Chinese movies and listening to Chinese musicians instead of watching American and British movies and listening to American and British musicians?

Will people around the world find themselves interested in learning Mandarin so they can compete in the new Sinocentric global economy?

Will China become a liberal democracy as the cosmopolitan post-80s/90s generations take over or will it continue to be a dictatorship for the foreseeable future?

Lastly, could you see China surpassing the US in military power and gaining hegemony? Will we end up dragged into China’s wars, the way Western countries were dragged into Iraq and the War on Terror?

This is just my guess, but I think China will reach around 20k in per capita GDP in nominal terms, then drop to developed world standards of growth (2-3% a year). I’m guessing/hoping they maintain 7% growth rates a little longer, then drop to 4-5% a year, then drop to developed world levels.

South Korea currently has 30k in nominal per capita income, a little more than half the US. But it is a middle class nation with a middle class infrastructure. I’m assuming China’s economy has to double a couple more times to reach this level. I wonder if they will officially be a developed middle class nation sometime in the 2030s.

China will become the world leader in science and technology though. Not just due to wealth, but because they take it more seriously. Even with a per capita GDP lower than brazil, China spends more on R&D as a % of GDP than many western european nations like Spain. China is currently spending 2% of GDP, they’ll probably push for 3-4% sometime in the next couple decades.

I think China will become the world military superpower (or at least equal to the US), but I don’t think they are expansionist or interested in being the world’s police.

No idea about the exportation of Chinese culture. Japanese culture was never really exported other than via consumer goods, and Japan is a very wealthy nation. Japanese or South Korean cuisine, art, culture, etc. never caught on much in the west.

basically, I predict a China that equals the US in military power, that surpasses the US & EU in science and technology, and that mostly keeps to themselves, and does not export their culture or try to police the world.

However, I think if China feels using its military or diplomatic power can help their economy, they will. I’m guessing they will force smaller nations to open up to Chinese goods and services, and monopolize the good jobs domestically. I know during the great recession they tried to corner the market on rare earth metals so they could become the world leader in consumer tech and renewable energy. I’m sure they’ll keep up that strategy.

Japan, despite being the 3rd largest economy on earth, isn’t thought of as a world power in a lot of ways. They just contribute to science & tech, and keep to themselves. I think China will follow the same path.

China can become the primary world power without being as rich per capita as the US. There’s over a billion of them - they only have to be a quarter as rich. That’s honestly not a hard bar to cross, and I’m quite sure they can manage it some time in the next 30 years.

Also, clearly they are interested in being A World Power. That’s what the whole South China Sea thing is part of, for one thing. And they heavily invest in Africa (cite) You probably don’t really get much of a sense of China’s growing importance over in the US, outside of their current sphere of influence, but when you’re *in *their sphere, you certainly do. They’re an authoritarian regime, they’re not above buying politicians in other smaller countries (read - nearly everywhere in the Asia-Pacific region) and if they get pissed off you might find random citizens of yours who happen to be doing business there suddenly arrested for fraud or bribery or whatever.

My children are all learning Mandarin.

Having said that, I have absolutely no idea what growing prosperity will do to the political landscape in China, and whether the population will tolerate being under the authoritarian gun forever. If there were any serious civil unrest all bets are off, but on an individual level, Chinese society really values keeping your head down and being a good citizen. If your really can’t cope with that level of control … well, that’s what emigrating to Australia is for!

China has always fancied itself (and indeed calls itself) The Middle Kingdom. Natural center of the world to which all nations must accept a subordinate position. Anyone who thinks they won’t try to rule the world at some level is fooling themselves.

China may become a reasonably-powerful country, but it will never become the most powerful country. It’s too poor, and it will never become that rich. There is a saying among people who pay attention to such things – “China will grow old before it grows rich.”

Are you familiar with population pyramids? They show a country’s demographics. For example, India is a young country. Notice how much of India’s population are children.

By contrast, Japan is an old country. Its population pyramid is almost the inverse of India’s.

Here is China’s. Notice how few children there are compared to adults.

You can use the buttons underneath the population graphs to look at historical data, or project population in the future. Here is China’s projection 30 years from now. It looks remarkably like Japan’s today.

But Japan is already a rich country, and has been for some time. It can afford to invest large sums of money in research into technology that helps elderly people.

“May become a reasonably powerful country” is a pretty odd position to take on a country that right now has the second-largest economy in the world and the largest army. I think I’d call that fairly powerful.

China is an aging nation, but I think that just means they will become a world leader in R&D and implementation of robotics, automation and anti aging therapy. China is currently by far the biggest global investor in renewable energy (more than the US and Japan combined) due to having horrible pollution, I think they’ll become the world leader in labor saving robotics and anti aging medicine for the same reason, they need these technologies to function.

I guess ‘fairly powerful’ is an accurate enough statement. But the OP is asking if they will become ‘the primary world power’. That’s something else entirely. As for their economy, it’s pretty big, but a lot of it is overinflated first with their crazy real estate boom and next with their crazy stock boom…both problems directly caused by the CCP, who deliberately ramped up both. Their military (which is downsizing btw, so won’t be the ‘largest army’ much longer), while it LOOKS big and impressive, is a tiger with feet of clay. Bad training, horrible leadership, lack of anything resembling experience, and with a host of outdated and poorly made weapons along with a few ‘cutting edge’ ones that no one really knows their capabilities, it’s a force that currently can almost be relied on for internal security and not much else. A far cry from even the Russian military at this stage in just about every category. That’s the thing about China…when you start to really dig in you see how flawed and corrupt their system actually is. It’s a miracle that they have made it this far without collapsing, to be honest. And to answer the OPs question, I don’t see them becoming the primary world power as long as the CCP has a death grip on the leadership and running of China. Once they are gone and, hopefully, posing for gunfire? Yeah, I think China COULD very well become the hyperpower on the planet, assuming what came after was anything like a rule of law kind of democracy (or just a rule of law type country of any stripe).

India is quietly building itself up.

My guess is yes, China will become the world’s most powerful country some time in the 21st century. But they won’t do it by beating the United States at our own game. They’ll do it by shifting the world’s definition of what power is to one in which China has more power than any other country.

I’m not trying to be enigmatic here. I’m just acknowledging that I can’t predict the exact details of something that hasn’t happened yet. But here’s a comparison: Britain used to be considered the world’s most powerful country. And that judgement was based on the fact that the power of a country was measured by the size of its empire and Britain had the biggest empire in the world. At some point in the twentieth century, the United States surpassed Britain in power. But it didn’t do so by building a bigger empire than Britain had. It did so by changing the standards by which power was measured. Power was now measured by industrial strength and America’s industries were stronger than Britain’s.

I think there will be a similar shift some time in the next few decades. We’ll find that countries begin looking towards China instead of America. And we’ll argue that we’re still number one because we have more aircraft carriers and more cars and we build more jet airliners and produce more summer blockbusters. Other countries will say “That’s all true. But China does more ___. And we think that’s more important than the stuff you do.”

China’s growth rapid growth of the last couple decades won’t last forever, because that growth was predicated on starting from near zero. It’s easy to start at nothing, and look around at developed countries, and copy what they do.

I mean, it’s easy to say it’s easy. But it isn’t easy, or everyone would do it. But it also isn’t impossible, because plenty of countries in the past couple decades have done it, not just China. But it requires a certain level of social/political organization. If the local powers that be extract too high of rents from the economic development, then it just can’t happen. Corruption is one thing as long as it’s not so high that nobody can actually do anything without paying so much in bribes that it’s not worth it anymore.

Anyway, with Deng’s reforms and the consistent application of them over the last few decades, China has managed to grow their economy pretty rapidly. But that can’t continue on forever, and it requires an autocratic government to continue to make the correct decisions. And the classic problem with autocratic government is that there’s no mechanism to replace the government when they start screwing up. When the autocrats are choosing wisely, it’s fine. When they don’t choose wisely you get disaster.

But China is beset by all kinds of nearly unsolvable problems. Take a look at the health care debacle in the United States, a similar unsolvable problem that we have. It’s a problem that could actually easily be solved, but it is politically impossible to implement the solution, and so the problem will continue to get worse until something gives.

China currently has a vast reservoir of good will from the people to the government when they compare their lives today to their lives 30-40 years ago. People look at the inequity and inefficiency and unfairness they experience today and compare that to what China experienced in the 1960s and 1970s and they’re grateful. But that can only last so long as the people who experienced the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution age out of power, and you have people who grew up under the moderate repression of the current day taking over, with no memory of the horrors of the past.

In many countries there has been a relatively peaceful transition from the military dictatorships and autocratic governments of the past to a representative government. And even the crusty old generals and ministers who oppressed the people in the past are better off as wealthy citizens of a modern state rather than autocratic rulers of a poor state.

Whether China can make this transition is not clear, and from my position it doesn’t seem very likely. But even so, China is very likely to keep it’s position as a middle-rank economy per-capita, which means that it’s going to be the largest economy in the world. And that means we’re all going to have to get used to taking China into account, for good or bad.

Well, they have a lot more corruption and dysfunction, so perhaps that will be the metric. :stuck_out_tongue: I think some of what you say is true…other countries ARE looking to China, especially in Africa. I think your assessment that China will ACTUALLY (as opposed to how some perceive it) become the primary hyperpower in the world is inaccurate, as things stand today, but I guess time will tell. Myself, I think that the wall is still coming for China, and eventually, they will hit it. Hard. And when that happens, either the CCP will go or China is going to fade back into the pack. Either way, it will be ugly.

At best, China will one day be first among equals. It will always be heavily counterweighted by India even in its own sphere of influence.

No. And no. English became the world’s dominant second language because people learned it out of necessity. You didn’t just need to know English to trade with Britain, you needed it to trade with India, much of the Middle East, bits of Africa, Australia and much of North America.

At the height of the Industrial Revolution Britain produced half of all the world’s finished goods. No matter how economically dominant China becomes, it will never dominate the global economy the same way. Anyway, China’s current economic ascendance is largely due to its appeal as a cheap high-volume manufacturing site. If China’s per capita income rises, it will no longer be a cheap place to make things. If China’s per capita income doesn’t rise, it will never be as appealing as a market as the US or Eurozone.

This is also why Brazil (which otherwise would have a decent shot) isn’t going to rival the United States in the foreseeable future. They are projected to have an older population than the US by, IIRC, 2050-2060. They probably will become a fully developed country but one with a population and economy still significantly smaller than the US.

To be clear, I think it’s very possible that the US will lose its status as the world superpower sometime in the next half century, but if that happens it will have as much to do with self-destruction as with other countries becoming richer.

China probably will rival the United States and the West in terms of economic and political influence, and that could happen sooner rather than later. It will take a while for the Chinese military to project itself as a global force, but it will definitely soon have sufficient power to police more of its own sphere and cause headaches for other militaries in the region, including the United States, Japan, Korea, and ASEAN nations.

On the other hand, there are major challenges for China. Pretty much any country is vulnerable to an economic crisis and China’s no different. They’re probably less susceptible to global contagion than other countries but they’re borrowing more money and some property markets are outrageously priced. The greater problem for China is its Malthusian problem and how it can manage its environment and resources for its massive population. They’ll always be vulnerable in that respect.

If China assumes a greater role on the world stage, it will probably be concurrent with America’s internal decline, which we’re pretty much witnessing as we write. The descent didn’t start with Trump either. The 2000s will probably be known by historians in the future as the decade that America unraveled. That trend will eventually reverse itself and I think better days are ahead…but it might be a while.

On the economic numbers stuff it’s a straightforward guessing game though I’m skeptical of anyone’s ability to guess correctly very far out.

On cultural or language hegemony though you have to keep in the mind that it’s really not the US which has built up the current hegemony alone but also Britain as previous leading power with same language and similar culture, and ‘the West’ in general going back to early modern times when Western tech and per capita GDP, and thus projection of global power, broke away from everyone else’s. It doesn’t seem realistic to expect that to completely wash away on anything like the same timescale as total Chinese GDP could become largest (perhaps fairly soon, perhaps already depending how you count) or Chinese per capita GDP becoming comparable the ‘rich’ countries (maybe within a few decades, though maybe never, IMO nobody can say with any certainty). The whole world cultural legacy of the West’s rise isn’t going away in the next several decades IMO, unless there’s some (really bad) general global upheaval. Just the positive rise of China isn’t going to do that IMO.

People will be more interested in Chinese language and culture, that’s predictable and already true to some degree. But Chinese replacing English as the de facto international language, won’t happen IMO. Probably the next international language is ‘none’ because computers become good enough at translating that there’s less point in mass education in languages other than the native tongue, even in relatively small language communities.

The last point touches on the other questions. If the PRC becomes ‘like a Western democracy’ then what’s so different about the ‘new world’ where China is number 1 economy? And there’s yet to be demonstrated any real uniquely Chinese alternative. Now the PRC is a pretty corrupt power abusing one party dictatorship, nothing particularly unique. The West has had governments not that different. Every modern dictator with a bit of pretension thinks they’ve achieved some new definition of the rights people ‘really want’, but it’s just the situation where the dictators can do what they want and look after ‘their own’ without a lot of pesky accountability. Again there’s nothing particularly Chinese about that.

Probably nobody can really become “the” world power any more in the way that the US was in the 50s and 60s, and Britain was in the C19th - unless we have something very catastrophic like a World War, or Yellowstone goes up - I expect the world will become more multipolar in the coming century. Having said that…

Yes, China has a nasty housing bubble problem. 60 million unoccupied houses are the figures I’ve seen. On the other hand, the Chinese population is still going up by about 7 million a year, so demand is going to increase - it’s just a question of how far demand and salaries have to rise in order to start using up all that excess (though ghost towns in Ulaan Batar are probably still toast, ultimately). We have a housing bubble in Australia too - not nearly as bad as China, but it’s been going on for decades with commentators swearing blue that prices are going to crash any day now - and then them resolutely not doing so. So it’s possible that if they don’t keep contributing to the problem, they can simply hang on until their population and wealth catches up

Yes, China is a repressive autocracy with a big corruption and bribery problem, and shaky adherence to the rule of law. So is, for instance, Russia. If China had as big a per-capita GDP as Russia, they’d have already overtaken the USA as biggest economy in the world. So clearly it is possible to have at least a passably functional economy while being politically and socially pretty mediocre - and they only need to have a passably functional economy to be the biggest dog on the block nearly everywhere. That comes with a certain set of advantages in terms of applying political pressure and getting good trade terms, when nearly all your trade partners need you more than you need them.

As far as the military goes - I’m quite sure they couldn’t take on the US. But a standing army of over 2 million doesn’t fit the profile of a country that’s content to sit within its own borders and not try to be a country with global influence and reach. They are definitely interested in that.

How much is their military downsizing anyway? Does this involve actually spending less money on it? Because they can reduce their budget by more than half and still be the second-biggest military spender in the world.

I’ve heard they plan to reduce the size of their military by up to a million men…which means they won’t have the largest numerical army anymore (which was my point). No, I don’t expect them to reduce the size of their BUDGET…in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they increase that more in the coming years, especially the internal side.

The point is that while their military is large and they spend a lot, it’s capabilities are pretty low, and mainly this has to do with who controls the military and who is in charge of it. In some regards, it’s a lot like the Saudi military wrt spending a lot but not getting much out of it (beyond internal security, which is mainly the point).

Hm…well, I’m not sure about outside their borders, though they have deployed some troops in some African countries IIRC. I think they are certainly interested in expanding their influence, especially regionally but even beyond that, and their military is certainly part of that calculation.

Sure, Russia is a good counter example. I don’t think people really get how repressive the CCP is, or the actual levels of corruption in this, nor how it impacts their future growth. They certainly have a functional economy, but a lot of what they have done and are doing is built on sand, with the CCP leading the country from one economic disaster to another and both their government and corporate debt getting to very dangerous levels. The fact that just about no one trusts the official growth numbers or GDP figures is pretty telling…even the Chinese don’t trust them, and that is a long term issue. Another really big issue is how the CCP uses government assets to steal corporate secrets from other countries companies, passes them to Chinese companies while giving them subsidies and R&D info on the stole data, then uses the courts to uphold ridiculous patent claims of infringement in China (example…Chinese government helps steal data on iPhone 6, give to Chinese company to make knockoffs, then supports company in suing iPhone in China for stealing intellectual property). This has certainly helped China in the short term, but it’s got heavy long term consequences if they don’t change…and, really, I’m not sure they CAN change this.

Well, a couple things on this. First off, you have to look at WHY they have had a construction bubble (which includes the housing bubble you are talking about). Then you have to look at where those ghost cities and housing projects are, and why people aren’t already moving there. It’s very unlike the US or Australian housing bubbles in that it wasn’t driven by the government who’s motto is ‘stability at all costs’. When you dig in, you will see that most of that housing will probably never be used and that the amount of waste was staggering. It did prop things up (as well as artificially boost GDP figures…even the real ones), so it had some of the desired effects.

The main point in all this isn’t the say China is going to crash and burn (necessarily), or to downplay the fact that they are a major economic power and will continue to be so. Much of the worlds growth has stemmed from China, even if a lot of it has been a waste in some respects. Certainly much of the poverty reduction world wide has come from China. China will continue to grow and, assuming they can get past some of their systemic issues (like their government), they have vast potential. The point, however, is that they won’t be the new dominant hyperpower on the planet unless and until they address these systemic issues…and they aren’t doing that right now. In fact, they are becoming more entrenched in some ways, and the CCP shows no sign that I’ve seen at least to finally being put down or losing it’s grip on power.

As far as the military goes - in the US and the rest of the West, an army is primarily to be used. It is pretty critical that it actually be able to do the job of effectively fighting. I’m not entirely sure if that’s the way China thinks of things though. They are after all very concerned with appearances. I rather think the main point of their army might be to plausibly look like it might be used. I’m not sure if they want to invade people so much as to make them do what China wants without getting invaded.

In fact, this question of how power is wielded is a good candidate for 'ways a China-dominated world would be different ’ - China seems to be more of a long term influencer (and briber) where the US will just straightforwardly say what you want other countries to do (and maybe kick some butt along the way in service of the goals you’re really keen on)