By Laxman Pant – For the last one decade or so since the end of Cold War, the US seems struggling to retain its position as a global leader. Nonetheless, the debate about whether China would surpass America in the years to come in terms of economy and military is not over yet. From London to Washington, there are quite contending and conflicting views among western ideologues on this subject. Though a fairly large number of western as well as African and Asian thinkers, not to mention the Chinese ones, believe that China has already risen and America cannot prevent her from becoming number one global power in a few decades. From whichever prism one views, the rise of China is a fundamental fact of our times.
Several facts concerning China fairly weigh in favour of those thinkers who strongly assert that China’s position as topmost global leader is inevitable. Goldman Sachs, a prestigious American multinational company, had projected in 2010 that by 2025 the Chinese economy will be almost the same size as the size of American economy. By 2050 the Chinese economy will be twice the size of American one and the Indian economy will be almost same size as the American economy.
Let us begin first with some of the tangible facts- and above all the human capital. Despite being around the same size as America geographically, one billion less people live in America than in China. If one considers human resource as the most important capital of any nation, China has far big advantage over its rival America. China has a huge labor force, and a disciplined one at that, numbering 795.5 million while America has only 153 million labours, five times less than that of America. And to top it all China has the great potential with huge amount of money, expertise and unparalleled infrastructure to transform the sheer size of the work force into a mighty material force.
China has already overtaken America on many other counts. True, the overall GDP of America is still around 25 per cent higher than that of China, her GDP based on PPP, however, had reached $ 18.3 trillion in 2014 whereas US GDP based on PPP was 17.5 trillion at that time. IMF forecasts that the China GDP PPP will reach $ 29.7 trillion by 2020.
Over the last decades China has been able to lift around 700 million people out of poverty which has resulted in phenomenal growth of middle class. This is twice the number of entire U.S. population. Ever since the beginning of civilisation, no country or the government, neither in the past nor in the present has been able to transform the society on such a gigantic scale. The size of Chinese middle class numbering 400 million is bigger than the entire population of the America i.e. 327.2 million (2018). Last year about 140 million Chinese visited foreign countries as tourists. This is the highest number of globetrotting citizens of any country in the history of mankind. This may be taken as an important barometer of Chinese economy.
Referred as ‘sick man of the east’ in late nineteenth and early twentieth century, China’s success story does not end here. If high quality transportation system could be considered as a yardstick to measure the development of any nation, the Chinese high speed rail system has put the USA to shame. Now China operates more high speed trains than the rest of the world combined. China launched her first high speed train from Beijing to Tianjin only in 2008. Before that China did not have a single high speed train. Now it has the world’s fastest and largest network of bullet trains. By the end of 2018, China had a total length of 29,000 kilometres of high speed railway network which accounts for two-thirds of the total high-speed railway in the world.
The majority of the sinologists and scholars across the globe are unanimous that with the rise of China for the first time in the history of modern world, the power centre is gradually shifting towards Asia from Europe. Secondly, they also share widely acclaimed view that for the first time in the history a developing nation is emerging as a global power centre. This is altogether a new phenomenon of modern world politics.
European powers in the past centuries such as Portugal, Spain, Britain and lately the U.S in the second half of 20th century built their empires through bombs and bibles by killing millions of people, sowing seeds of animosity in the peaceful and harmonious societies across the globe, destroying economies and in Asia, middle East, Africa and Latin America. From the second half of twentieth century to right up till now under the guise of democracy and human rights, many regimes were violently overturned or being toppled in many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America by western powers using money and the military power which in its wake brought untold miseries to these nations. Tens of millions of people lost their lives and limbs in wars. The people in these poor and war-ravaged countries were yearning for better lives and infrastructure; schools and hospitals over many years but what they got in return was horrendous war, destruction and poverty thanks to the war- mongering nature of western powers.
But with the rise of China huge number of people in Asia and Africa are witnessing quite a different scenario across the horizon. China has invested billions of dollars under the Belt and Road that has transformed the destiny of a fairly large number of people across the world. The Chinese companies have helped build or are building more than 6,200 kilometres of railways in Africa alone. The transport sector in Kenya and Ethiopia has undergone a sea change with the financial aid and help of China. It is the same Africa which for its most part of the modern history was plundered, ravaged by wars and conflicts by the western powers.
While the erstwhile empire like Britain as well as America for a long period of time in the history have used their funds in wars to plunder and destroy Africa, the new power and resurging Middle Kingdom, i.e. China is using its funds to build infrastructure all across Africa and elsewhere under the BRI project. This marks a complete paradigm shift in world politics. The rise of China and decline of western power is a fundamental geo-political reality of our times. A columnist of South China Morning, Hong Kong based English daily, has aptly summarised the different nature of Chinese and American polity thus: America may have democracy at home but it is the most warlike nation on Earth. China may be an authoritarian ‘communist’ state but its rulers have always tried to avoid external military entanglement.
(Pant is a Central Committee Member of Nepal Communist Party and can be reached at [email protected])
This article first appeared in The Rising Nepal.