Is China a superpower?

In the age of globalisation the balance of power seems to be shifting; swinging back into the growing arms of historic nations, those of Chindia (China and India) who until 1800 controlled half the world economy. Thus the unipolar world of the late 20th Century which the USA, the emblem of western civilisation, controlled is falling from grace and there is a rush to fill the void. But questions remain; how big is this void? And has China filled this void well enough to be c lassed a superpower?

The 20th century was an exceptional period in world politics and China is a consequence and a testament to those times. Disunity, invasions and warlords was the story of China at the start of the century and at such times super was not a word to be associated with China. But then came civil war, communism and cohesive prosperity, and China s ascendency on the world stage became certain. But before we continue to delve into why china is being considered a superpowe r it is useful to define the term; Alice Lyman Miller (Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School), defines a superpower as "a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemony." One might argue that a nation like Britain might fit this definition, but as it is not a superpower a useful addition would be to add that a superpower is traditionally considered to be one step higher than a great power. Now that we have established a definition we might continue to see why China is perceived as the new superpower. The first is shear size, with a staggering population of o ver 1.3 billion and the second biggest with regards to land; China commands tremendous influence over a large proportion of the world. Then there is the issue of staggering economic development which occurred mainly

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Private businesses and capitalism did not exist. Militarily China is also being considered a superpower w ith the world's largest army and defence spending reported to reach 105 billion dollars. This is attributed to a combination of cheap labour. industrialized communist society. This proved highly successful and since economic liberalization began in 1978. Following Mao's death and the end of the failed Cultural Revolution. Along with this in recent times they have cooperated with the oth er emerging power. though it has now been allowed to appreciate.after Mao Zedong's death. and some say. From its founding in 1949 to late 1978. To propel the country towards a modern. it is a force to be reckoned with. China has also now leapfrogged others great powers to become the world's second largest economy by both nominal GDP and purchasing power parity. the People's Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy. China has become the world's fastest growing major economy. This size leads to it having huge control over new contracts in Africa who welcome the investment that it brings. relatively high productivity. favourable government policy. Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership began to reform the economy and move to a market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. medium level of technology and skill. its economy is essential to the world and demands tremendous influence. India. good infrastructure. the world's largest exporter and second largest importer of goods. Mao Zedong instituted the Gr eat Leap Forward. in addition to this there is the daunting reminder that it is also a state with nuclear weapons. China's economic miracle was primarily due to manufacturing as a low -cost producer. The size of this army can be seen a s a response to the US Page 2 of 5 . over bidding for different contracts in Africa. an undervalued exchange rate. Thus China economically is undoubtedly a superpower. What is also noteworthy is the rise of china's workers who are now demanding higher wages which w ill boost spending in China thus further improving their standard of living.

The most potent example of it's rise in prestige though can be seen by the Beijing Olympic in 2008. The claim of a superpower seemed to be evident in everyth ing concerning the event from the grand opening to the perfect ending. the rise of bolt. With regards to these attributes China certainly seem to be showing symptoms of a superpower. Alongside its military. tight birth controls. APEC. and G -20. unemployment and outdated sections of public services still in existence. Within all of these due to the world's reliance on the burgeoning trade and economy of China. they command tremendous influence. Of course there is the issue of social tensions within the country with there being.backed Taiwan which China views as a distasteful nuisance. over crowdedness. not only is it a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. China has also expanded its air force and has a developing navy with m uch of its equipment bought from Russia. We must then proceed to the issue of China 's growing prestige on the international stage. It is also a member of multilateral organizations including the WTO. Despite all this there are still those who argue that superpower is something they have not yet acquired. Shanghai Cooperation Organization. which was undoubtedly one of the be st Olympic games not only due to the staggering records broken. the destruction by Phelps and the sizeable medal haul by team GB but also because of how successfully it was hosted. Also despite the huge Page 3 of 5 . sending an astronaut into space and filling it with a cornucopia of satellites. BRIC. China has also explored the stars. The 900 short ranged missiles installed opposite Taiwan is a tactless reminder of the bitter situation.

Since then they took an Page 4 of 5 . Though we mentioned China's military earlier. Though it may be argued these were instances where they had little to lose. for a modern superpower wishes to export its ideals and values as well as its commodities. Also they are seen as relatively passive. it gave their under experienced army some front line work and also were able to improve their international standings. it is not without flaws which question our previous argument. For example the forces have almost no combat experience and are thus hard to keep motivated. This seems to weaken their superpower credentials. The signs of soft power here are indeed common in superpowers but the passiveness hasn't seemed to be one associated with a superpower It was arguably Korea when the world first began to see China as a formidable force in it's own right and not a mere puppet of the soviets. the subsequent human rights abuses such as the infamous Tiananmen square is not what one expects from a modern superpower. for examples they generally abstain rather than veto while on the security council and rarely deploy troops though are starting to be more assertive by contributing to UN operations such as 550 to Liberia in 2003 and 1000 to Lebanon in 2006. They also despite the size are unable to compete head on militarily with the US and would perhaps have to exploit US' reliance on satellites. Alongside the social tensions mentioned there is the prevalent issue of a lack of democracy under the communist regime with a one party state and the media tightly controlled and opposition abolished. These are not figures you would associate with superpowers but after the global financial crisis the current superpower's figures do not read much better. though this was to be expected with market reforms.improvements in poverty with millions lifted out of poverty. the poverty rate is still not diminished and is at 10% with huge income inequalities beginning to emerge.

But human rights abuses alone are hardly worthy of stripping the term superpower from China. with them only recently easing this approach. China is changing the role of the term superpower. at the start of the century. The market liberalisation that followed after Mao's death did not totally break this vice. the balance of power is shifting and there is a rush to join the globa l hegemon that is now China. Why this has occurred is perhaps a sign of fear not of democracy itself but the disunity it could bring. It was often argued by the Chinese in the 19th Century that if their broken society could unite then the shackles of imperialism would be broken.isolationist stance. for maintaining the political status quo has always remained priority. China is a superpower but it is not the US and this is the common misconception that is associated with the term. It is this unity within such a prestigious nation that allows it to thrive and as such any threat to this would be se en as a threat to national security and thus they justify human rights abuses. This isolationist stance follows the pattern of the other superpower. and its military might has the ability to act as an excellent deterrent. and China though not as militarily active as the US doe s this by its powerful and instrumental economic strength. A superpower it surely is and it is set to only grow. the US. a superpower is someone that exuberates influence albeit a tremendous amount. Page 5 of 5 .

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