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Thought Talk: Can the United States remain the preeminent global superpower in the face of China’s rise?

Background: A superpower is a nation-state which has the power to influence international developments to its own interest and then project its power worldwide to safeguard and advance those interests.  China’s seemingly spectacular economic growth in recent years to one of the world’s largest economies (its economy is growing at an astonishing 9% a year) suggests that the country is becoming a superpower, especially in the eyes of the popular media.  Indeed, China possesses a hoard of about $2.7 trillion in foreign currency ($2 trillion of it from America), while America is deep in the red.  Furthermore, China has abundant natural resources, plus a cheap pool of about 800 million workers out of a 1.3 billion population.  In contrast, America’s Great Recession and other economic woes suggest that perhaps America is on the decline.

Points of view:

  • America’s current decline is similar to Britain’s after WWII and the end of its empire, whereas China will soon be the world’s 4th largest economy–an achievement done entirely peacefully.  And China can match its economic growth with a super-advanced high-tech military plus a huge supply of troops.
  • China is using its cash to secure energy resources for its continued growth.  Beijing is NOT investing in its essential domestic infrastructure like sanitation, medical care, or education–or so it appears.  Maybe China is content to wait a long time to become a superpower.
  • China has problems: China has 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities; half the country’s water supply is polluted; it is the world’s largest consumer of coal; it is second to the US in dependence on foreign oil; and, 17% of China’s population lives on less than $1.00 a day.  This is NOT a 21st Century superpower–at least, not an across-the-board kind of hegemonic superpower like America.
  • Even though America might remain a military superpower, China is now capable of cleverer high-tech maneuverings that could leverage it into superpower status.  China and the United States may be on their way to a global rivalry like with America and the Soviet Union.

– The Guardian (
– The Salon (
– The Independent (

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