The term ‘Superpower’ was first used after World War II to describe countries that have a dominant position to influence much of the globe, regions or powerful countries. According to Wikipedia, “superpower is a state with a dominant position characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined-means of economic, military, technological and cultural strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence.”
Following the World War II, the superpower nations were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. They have had significant influence in the globe in various crucial matters including geopolitical, military, economy, cultural, etc. The United Kingdom lost much of its status as a world power after World War II due to its military spending which greatly affected its economy. Then the Soviet Union and the United States fought together during the Cold War. With the ending of Cold War in 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union also occurred. And the United States retained its unilateral superpower status and still holds that title today. Since then, many countries rose economically and otherwise. Germany continues to rise economically. Japan also achieved new heights but fell short due to its military independence. South Korea is another but remained satisfied to serve as a US proxy in Asia. India as a slow-big-fat Elephant has all the potential and yet waiting to fully realize it. On the contrary, China with its large population, land, military, old civilization is competing with the US in every front and emerging as a strong contender for the position.
So it is yet not clear whether we have a bipolar or multipolar world. With fall of USSR (read Russia), US enjoyed unilateral power and the world was quite unipolar. China has been able to demonstrate its exceptional capabilities in all fronts. Following are some of its achievements that the world can’t ignore today.
Rise of Chinese Economy
China has a mixed economic system. In the past 30 years, China has witnessed double-gitial economic growth, making it the world’s second largest economy in nominal value and number one economy in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). Achieving double-digit growth for three decades is an exceptional achievement by any economy in the world. Before China, Japan and Korea were the distant second and third countries in the race. According to IMF 2018, China’s GDP has reached at $14 trillion, second largest in the world. China’s GDP grew at 6.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018. China’s growth rate has slowed since the double-digit rates before 2013. Its economy grew 7.8 percent in 2013, 7.3 percent in 2014 and 6.9 percent in 2015. While the GDP of the US is $20.4 trillion in 2018 i.e. growth rate is 3.1 percent first quarter of 2019.
Today China has the largest military on the globe with two million active personnel in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). According to SIPRI, China only spends slightly over one-third as much as the United States and 13 percent of annual global military expending in 2017. China’s military budget for 2018 was $170.4 billion. “China aims to complete military modernization by 2035 and make the PLA into a ‘world-class’ military by 2049, through both modernization as well as structural and command changes.” According to a report published by Pentagon on China’s military power, Beijing’s armed forces were expanding at a fast rate, which could soon “contest US military superiority.” China was trying to transform its military into a major global power by any means necessary.
China is rapidly growing as a global technology superpower. China’s two largest Internet companies – Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings – are leading in online gaming, social media and e-commerce. Cutting-edge Mavic Pro drone which controls over 70% of the commercial drone market, all-inclusive app WeChat, TikTok, the technological innovation emerging from China. To develop the civilian and military with emerging technologies such as 5G, semiconductors, microchips, artificial intelligence (AI), China invested billions of dollars. China is the first country where a surgery was done with the help of 5G and first used a robot as an anchor of a news channel.
China has developed strategies for enhancing its soft power. China manages to use Soft Power in various areas such as tourism, education, sports, culture, etc. China managed to get over 100 million foreign tourists last year and international students in China stood at 3,97,635 in 2015. President Xi wants “football revolution” in his country. Over $2.5 billion is invested by Chinese tycoons over the past three years in several European clubs, including the Manchester City and the AC Milan. China is quite conscious about their culture. The “Confucius Institutes” was established to promote Chinese culture internationally. The institute has more than 350 centers across the world. About Seven thousand teachers are recruited every year from various Chinese universities and sent abroad to teach Chinese language and culture for two-year spells.
As the influence of the US goes down, China wants to reach out the global market and took some bold initiative such as ‘One belt One road’, also called ‘New Silk Road’ which helps to extend and deeper the economic and political domain throughout 152 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East through networks of roads, underwater pipelines, and platforms.
According to Hurun List 2018, China had 186 startup companies worth more than $1 billion. To compete with Silicon Valley, China built 11 cities as a Giant Technical Hub. In the field Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Block chain business, China’s presence is remarkable. Chinese businesses filed 473 out of the 608 Artificial Intelligence patents (77%) while the US has only 65. In blockchain technology, Chinese businesses filed 32% (99 out of 305 patents) of all global patents for blockchain technology with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2017. According to Xinhua news agency report, Chinese Government investing about $2 billion to build artificial intelligence Development Park in Beijing and set an ambition to become a world leader in AI technology by 2025.
China is a world leader in renewable energy. China is expanding its solar and wind electricity generating capacity. In 2017-18, China built more renewable energy generating capacity than any other country. Most of the electric cars in the world are supplied by China. Shenzhen was the first city to replace all its buses with electric buses, and is now replacing all its taxis too.
These are some of the glimpses on how and why China is fast asserting itself as power.
The Article is written by Asif Karim who is a student of BSc in Medical Microbiology, Dehradun. He aspires to be civil servant and contributes in national building.