This question is closely linked to the sterling performances of China in various fields over the years and the rapid progress that it has been making to usurp the number one position in the world. No country will vacate the super power chair unless some other country which is more powerful than it comes to occupy it either with love or for “cost.” US present superpower status is going to be challenged by the 20th Century Giant, China—no questions about it. If some economist gives us concrete evidence and states that China is just waiting in the wings to come to the stage to dethrone US from number one position, that assertion cannot be easily brushed aside. But do not expect China to run the straight 100 meters race! This race will be full of obstacles, and US will not take the things lying down.
Unlike China, at present, it is facing certain huge problems like that of recession, reduction in employment opportunities due to job resourcing outside the country and the challenge posed by about 20 million illegal immigrants, who have cornered majority of the farm and jobs at the lower levels. But the American top political leadership is aware of these challenges and if China ever thinks that it is just a walk over for it, with the confidence gained due to the surge in its economy mainly due to exports, it is miscalculation.
Too much dependency on exports is not its strength, but weakness.
Let us examine the merits and de-merits of China’s challenge to dethrone US from the citadel of superpower.
- The domestic consumption of China is not encouraging as compared to US. When the European countries and USA cut down their imports due to recession, turmoil ensued in the industries of China, which entirely depend on exports. Many downed the shutters and millions of workers lost their jobs. China had no alternative plans to rehabilitate them.
- China has to support population over a billion, and it is increasing. It is an asset as well as the liability. If the population can be productively engaged, it is good; if not it is a cause for great concern.
- It is constantly increasing its nuclear capability, whereas the superpowers are finding ways and means to reduce it. What could be its hidden agenda? Its defense budget is enormous. It has the world’s largest armed forces aggregating more than four and a half million men and women. Will it be prudent for China to maintain such a huge arsenal, as it is not engaged in any international military commitments? Not one soldier of China is fighting on the foreign soil, just like the American soldiers are in Afghanistan and Iraq. China is in no position to influence the world events and international politics.
- Its political history is tumultuous. With the liberalization of economic policies, it seems to have given a go to the Communist Philosophy, but has it really? The thinking of one or two top leaders leads to changes in the policy and the pattern of economic development. This is not always good for a country and may prove detrimental to the steady growth. USA has a tried and tested democratic system.
- The plus points with China as compared to USA are many. It has discovered massive petroleum deposits in Manchuria and offshore. Its coal reserves are the largest in the world and it is in a position to export; on the agricultural front it has achieved self-sufficiency in food and exports certain items; hydro-electricity potential is the largest in the world; its armament industry is self-sufficient and it exports arms. With all these credits it is still a giant and not a “superpower” as compared to USA.
- China has begun to assume roles in regional and world affairs. It has delivered artillery and tanks to Thailand to stall the possible invasion by Vietnam; supplied to Pakistan tanks, fighter aircrafts and attack aircrafts; done arms supply to some of the African countries like Mali, Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia Congo, Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe.
- On the debit side, China has a serious problem that may stall its efforts to reach the summit of super power. Notwithstanding the strict family planning measures, its population is expected to cross two billion levels by the year 2050. The infrastructure required to support the population is huge and the efforts required to contain the inflation are mind-blowing.
Conclusion – The above facts/comparison related to China is given for the simple reason that many experts visualize the scenario of China dethroning USA from the superpower position. There is a difference between being a super power and the super power in number 1 position. Great Britain, USSR, Germany are super powers even now. Thus USA will continue to be a superpower. But the problems that confront USA that challenge its number one superpower position are worth serious consideration.
Fast technological advances all over the world, have made them less dependent on imports from USA; it often interferes in the internal affairs of other countries, and is engaged in wars at all times, with one country or another; it has the massive problem of more than 20 million illegal aliens; it is on the downward march economically for the last 40 years; will it meet with the similar fate as that of Britain, the way it went into an economic nosedive? The divide between the rich and the poor has increased; it has real threat to national security from three countries, Iran, N. Korea and China who have no reservations to use nuclear weapons, when necessary in their national interests.
Yet, so much can happen in 50 years, what to talk about the century. As of now, going by the current standards, the superpower status of US seems to be intact in the coming century.