Region:
BRICS
Category:
Economy
Article type:
Opinion

China: will become a superpower, how and why?

Region:
BRICS
Category:
Economy
Article type:
Opinion
Author/s:
By Veronica Mussio
Publication date:
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A brief description of this process

In order to understand China or any country, from my point of view, it is important to start from the meaning of the name of the country. China (in simplified Chinese: 中国; traditional Chinese: 中國; pinyin: Zhōngguó), this means country of the centre. Officially the People's Republic of China (PRC) is a sovereign state located in East Asia. Nowadays, this is a strategic location, close to other countries that are changing the geopolitical order in the world. Everyone knows that, It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.35 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing.

The official name of the present country is the People's Republic of China (Chinese: 中华人民共和国; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó). The common Chinese names for the country are Zhōngguó (Chinese: 中国, from zhōng, "central" or "middle", and guó, "state" or "states," and in modern times, "nation") and Zhōnghuá (Chinese: 中华), although the country's official name has been changed numerous times by successive dynasties and modern governments. The term Zhōngguó appeared in various ancient texts, such as the Classic of History of the 6th century BCE, and in pre-imperial times it was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia tribes from perceived "barbarians". The term, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states or provinces in the central plain, but was not used as a name for the country as a whole until the nineteenth century. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as "central", with other civilizations having the same view of themselves.

Historically the importance of China in the world has been practically ignored for a long time, not only by economics but also historician.

The study of world power has been blighted by Eurocentric historians who have distorted and ignored the dominant role China played in the world economy between 1100 and 1800. John Hobson’s brilliant historical survey of the world economy during this period provides an abundance of empirical data making the case for China ’s economic and technological superiority over Western civilization for the better part of a millennium prior to its conquest and decline in the 19th century.

China’s re-emergence as a world economic power raises important questions about what we can learn from its previous rise and fall and about the external and internal threats confronting this emerging economic superpower for the immediate future.

First of all we are going to study the historical China’s rise to global economic superiority over West before the 19th century, following closely John Hobson’s account in The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization. Since the majority of western economic historians (liberal, conservative and Marxist) have presented historical China as a stagnant, backward, parochial society, an “oriental despotism”, some detailed correctives will be necessary. It is especially important to emphasize how China, the world technological power between 1100 and 1800, made the West’s emergence possible. It was only by borrowing and assimilating Chinese innovations that the West was able to make the transition to modern capitalist and imperialist economies.

Other important aspects that interesting to study are the factors and circumstances which led to China’s decline in the 19th century and its subsequent domination, exploitation and pillage by Western imperial countries, first England and then the rest of Europe, Japan and the United States.

And the last aspect is outline the factors leading to China’s emancipation from colonial and neo-colonial rule and analyze its recent rise to becoming the second largest global economic power.

The fact that China is increasingly seen as leading the world, economically, is borne out by Pew Global’s research. Of 20 countries surveyed in both 2008 and 2013, the median percentage asserting China as the “world’s leading economic power” increased from 20% to 34%. At the same time, the figure for the United States has fallen from 47% to 41%.

It is generally the most economically developed countries that perceive China on top. As of 2013, a majority of publics in Australia (61% compared to 40% in 2008), Germany (59% compared to 30% in 2008), Spain (56% compared to 24% in 2008), Britain (53% compared to 29% in 2008), and France (53% compared to 31% in 2008) see China as the world’s leading economic power.

Interestingly, more Americans also perceive China (44%) as the world’s leading economic power rather than their own country (39%). A majority in Canada (56%) supports that view.

This trend is evident despite the fact that China, on current trajectories, is unlikely to overtake the United States as the largest economy in the world in terms of GDP (measured per capita, the presumed overtake is even more distant) for a decade or more, and significant uncertainties still surround its future development. This underlines how international sentiment can ‘overshoot’ facts on the ground, and probably reflects perceptions of citizens in developed economies that China has become a much greater commercial rival since 2008.

In much of the rest of the world (Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and the Middle East), the United States is generally still regarded as the world’s leading economic power. However, that margin has been falling since the financial crisis, and more people in these regions now believe China will eventually overtake the United States as the “world’s leading superpower”.

Of course, many Chinese welcome recognition of the country’s growing might. However, it is rightly seen as a significant challenge too by Beijing.

China’s grand strategy is premised on a gradual, peaceful transition to power (“harmonious society”) during which it will grow stronger while keeping low profile. The brighter spotlight on the country, since 2008, has thus been unanticipated, and unplanned for.

And, it is this which has fueled China’s soft power deficit. Soft power, which rests upon the international attractiveness of a country’s foreign policy, political values and culture, is recognized by Beijing as a key political commodity, but one the country has had limited success in cultivating. As international perceptions of China’s power have changed, there are growing signs of international concern and sometimes even outright hostility toward the country.

For instance, a 2013 BBC survey found that China’s global reputation, tracked across 25 countries, has sunk to its lowest level since the annual study began in 2005. In 2013, there has been an average fall-off of 8 percentage points in positive views towards China, and an increase in negative views also by 8 percentage points. Of the countries in the survey, 13 now hold overall negative views of the country, against 12 in which the overall view is positive.