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The Rising Power of China

China is one of the oldest countries in the world and it also hosts the world’s oldest civilization. Traditionally China has been a very influential country with its cultural, technological, economic and religious sphere extending over whole of East Asia including neighbours such as Vietnam, Korea and Japan.

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In the annals of history China was once considered a dominant power in Asia and was credited with a lot of inventions and was thus considered to be a far more advanced civilization than its neighbours. However gradually Chinese supremacy fell to internal squabbles, corruption and the ever expanding European colonial powers. Around the mid nineties China was renamed as the People’s Republic of China by revolutionaries that imposed a communist system to run the country. However China suffered greatly in this period with highly centralized command, famine, hardships and unjust repression of both freedom of speech and recognitions and entitlement of rights. Furthermore China lost its economic and military clout in Asia and was generally considered a large but weak state as it could was not able to defend itself adequately against Japan (World War II) which was a smaller albeit technologically and economically far superior country as compared to China.

However two decades ago PRC started addressing various economic, political, social and military issues it was facing and started on journey of reform and improvement. PRC started pursuing a policy of rapid economic growth, developing and maintaining world wide trading ties and improving foreign and diplomatic relations. It is due to these initiatives that in today’s geopolitical and technological environment, China is regarded as one of the leading nations in the world. China’s increasing improvement both in economic and military arenas has pushed some analysts to regard China as a possible future contender of the USA (which is widely considered as the Superpower in the world) giving rise to a bi-polar world much like the era of the United States and Soviet Russia during the Cold War era.

The Rise

The Rise of China can give way to a more appropriate and accurate term, “Re-Emergence of China” since by size and influence China had been a major power in Asia both economically and technologically. Later on it was overthrown by Europe and America and its allies. However after undergoing an apparently successful transformation from a communist system to a capital system, China has greatly boosted the power and influence of its economy. The strength of the Chinese economy can be gauged from the facts that with a nominal GDP of USD 4.4 trillion China is considered that third largest economy (basis of exchange rate terms) and if analyzed on the basis of Purchasing Power Parity, China is ranked the second largest economy in the world ( The most alluring thing is that these figures continue to improve and exceed expectations all around the world year after year. It continues to be the fastest growing economy for the past three or so decades with a 9-10% average annual growth in GDP. China also has tripled its GNP it past two decades and continues to excel economically. This rapid economic growth has led to an approximate annual growth of about 8% in per capita income which has aggressively reduced poverty in China.

Even in today’s global economic and financial crisis it is classified as few of the countries which have weathered the storm and continues to provide a stable environment, high return and large trade activity in its financial and economic markets. (BRIC ~ Brazil, Russia, India & China). One of the major shifts has also assisted in the growing influence and economic and military prowess of China is the shift in the mindset of the leaders and people of PRC. Gone are the days that China ignored its responsibilities and tried to hide that it intends to become a major power in the near future. Nowadays the leaders of China are encouraging its people to discuss draw upon conclusions as to what it feels to be one of the major powers in the world so that it can spearhead its economic, political and technological growth on a global basis ( China has started exerting more economic and military influence in the last few years. It has started sending its military personnel on peacekeeping missions around the globe (e.g. Lebanon), announced low interest debt solutions to Asian and its Latin American trade partners. It also seeks to increase its influence in the Middle East which is traditionally under the sphere of influence of USA.

China has also matched its economic growth with growth in its military. Traditionally the Chinese military was known for its size, but was largely considered unsophisticated and lacking in technology to pose any threat to or adequately defend against a large and powerful aggressor such as USA. However the Hudson Institute issued a 95 page report which depicts the Chinese military as have grown in Special Forces training and technological competency. China decreased its military gap with its closest possible rival USA in the last decade or so by employing initiatives which focused on such shifting from quantity based (man power) approach to a quality based approach. This was done shedding up to a million men at arms and using the funds saved to finance better military hardware and state of the art training for its remaining troops. Furthermore the utilization of capital from the economic activities to purchase high quality modern command and control systems plus more precise, tactical and advanced military hardware capability has greatly assisted in the modernization of the Chinese military. Gone are the days when the Chinese military employed a centralized and highly bureaucratic structure for its Research and Development, instead now the control of R&D expenditure on the military resides with the government which has introduced a more streamlined and competition based structure while blurring and removing barriers for civilian companies to participate in this field with their respective military counterparts ( These initiatives have enabled the Chinese military to have the capability of aiding and defending Chinese interest on the global arena against the most modern and determined of foes.

It is due to these rapid and continued improvements in the economic and military arenas that many people regard China as the next superpower in the world which will dethrone USA as the leading nation in the world within the next 50 years.

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Not a Threat

When such claims are made it is natural that Chinas rivals especially USA feel threatened and questions its intentions and resent its ever growing influence globally especially in Asia and the Middle East. The Central intelligence Agency says that Chinese military sending may be two to three times of that which is disclosed. It also states that China is second largest country in terms of military spending. USA’s main objection and uneasiness in this regard is that China is currently involved in any conflict, then why is spending so much on the improvement and expansion of its military capabilities. Secondly Chinas rivals also use perceive Chinas growing economic clout as threat because it gives China a legitimate source of power in its region and provides its funds to challenge its rivals for trading ties, contracts and other economic and financial markets. Furthermore people who perceive Chinas rise as a threat point out the fact that China and maintained closed ties with its trading partners regardless of their human rights, working conditions and employee treatment. Countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe have only escaped international prosecution because of Chinas Influence. Thus they argue China is encouraging other counties to do the same and providing no incentives to these countries to bring about a healthy and beneficial change.

However instead of feeling so threatened these counties should realize that China still has a very long way to go before it can have the capability to replace USA has the world’s next superpower. Even now USA’s economy is twice as large as compared to the economy of China. Even if China’s economy grows to such n extent that it matches USA’s economy In size it will not be able to do so in levels of sophistication and quality of composition. China would still have a lower per capita income and vast underdeveloped areas. Moreover as the economic activity progresses Chinas economic growth is likely to slow down as its markets and general economic and financial environment reach maturity. Plus China still has to deal with issues like improving the inadequate infrastructure facilities, inefficient and bureaucratic state owned organizations and improving their financial system. Rapid increases in the economy has also created many problems that have already prompted large internal migrations, increase in income disparities and corruption which could ultimately lead to the creation of instability rather than emergence of China as a Superpower.

If we analyze China’s military, many analyst agree that the major chunk of spending in Chinas Military modernization is more defensive n nature rather than offensive. These initiatives focus more on defending Chinas mainland rather than adding long-range attack capabilities to Chinas arsenal. Furthermore for PRC to match let alone surpass USA’s military power will be a very up hill battle in which USA already has a very long head start. Much of Chinas military expenditure has concentrated on professionalizing and modernizing its outdated and oversized army. In addition to this these outlays are focused on improving weak close range defensive capabilities. Even though China claims that it wants to add carriers to its navy (symbol of strength and platform for excluding military dominance and influence) to boost its naval prowess, such a step will be expensive and time consuming. Plus USA and many of Chinas other rivals are greatly ahead of PRC in space warfare. Furthermore Chinas rivals should not take China’s plans of improving its military as without need and as comprising of a hidden agenda because China faces a very complex and complicated security environment. Issues like Taiwan’s potential bid for independence, threats from old rivals like India and Japan, ties with a highly volatile and explosive Pakistan, growing instability and insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq which could spill over to China and interactions with Russia, pose serious security threats for Chinas and thus in this way it is justifies in strengthening its defences.


Currently China stands at very sensitive and complicated crossroads. It is the duty of the leaders and people of China to realize that military expansionist policies like colonialism and exploitation would not be acceptable in today’s world. The conclusion is very important for each paper and should always be there. China should continue on its path of economic prosperity and should continue to improve the issues it faces like violations of human rights, safe working environment and many more. China could provide greater transparency in its developmental and military expenditures to increase its credibility. Chinese leaders should be promoting social stability, mutually beneficial and peaceful foreign relations, industrial development and feelings and values of nationalism. At the same time it is the role of the international community not to make enemies of China. Instead of threatening it and pressurizing it through economic or military means which could ultimately force China to retaliate violently, they should try and integrate it into the larger global system and community. It is positive and healthy engagement rather than isolation that can promote liberalism, healthy economic and military ties and peaceful diplomatic relations. The rise of China as a major player in world affairs is inevitable. China’s rivals should stop seeing it as a threat and should realize that not every rising power leads to war. A prime example of this is the overtaking of Britain by the United States of America in the late 19th century. If China’s rise remains peaceful as it is now, it can become a great source of much needed stability and prosperity to its own people, its neighbours and the global community at large.

References (2005). Rising Power, or Rising Threat? – China’s New Great Leap Forward. Web.

Doug Bandow. (2007). China Rising: The Next Global Superpower. Web. (2008). China’s Rising Power Status. Web.

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Learn More (2009). China revises figures, ‘becomes world’s number three economy’. Web. 

Joseph Kahn. (2006). China opens public discussion of its rising power – Asia – Pacific – International Herald Tribune. Web.

Nancy Jervis. (2006). What is Culture? Web.

Joseph S. Nye. (2005). China rising. Web.

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