China has not replaced America — and it never will
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Many people seem to think it's simply a matter of when, not if, China takes the reins of world leadership. How, they think, can America's 314 million people permanently outproduce a population that outnumbers the U.S. by over a billion people?
This facile assumption is wrong. China is not replacing the United States as the global hegemon. And it never will.
China faces too many internal problems and regional rivals to ever make a real play for global leadership. And even if Beijing could take the global leadership mantle soon, it wouldn't. China wants to play inside the existing global order's rules, not change them.
Start with the obvious military point: The Chinese military has nothing like the global reach of its American rival's. China only has one aircraft carrier, a refitted Russian vessel. The U.S. has 10, plus nine marine mini-carriers. China's first homemade carrier is slated for completion in 2018, by which time the U.S. will have yet another modern carrier, and be well on its way to finishing another. The idea that China will be able to compete on a global scale in the short to medium term is absurd.
Even in East Asia, it's not so easy for China. In 2012, Center for Strategic and International Studies experts Anthony Cordesman and Nicholas Yarosh looked at the data on Chinese and Taiwanese military strength. They found that while China's relative naval strength was growing, Taiwan had actually improved the balance of air power in its favor between 2005 and 2012 — just as China's economic growth rate, and hence influx of new resources to spend on its military, was peaking.
即使东亚对于中国来说都是一块烫手的山芋。在2012年，中心战略与国际问题研究学会上，砖家安东尼 口的曼和尼古拉斯 亚洛斯 自己端详了 中国和秃子家的军事数据。他们发现中国相关的海军力量在逐步增长。2005年到2012年 秃子的空中军事明显提高了。而就像中国的经济增长速度一样，中国把涌入的新资源把钱花在军事，才达到了顶峰。
China's equipment is often outdated, and its training regimes can be comically bad. A major part of its strategic missile force patrols on horseback because it doesn't have helicopters.
This isn't to deny China's military is getting stronger. It is. And one day, this might require the United States to rethink its strategic posture in East Asia. But Chinese hard power is nowhere close to replacing, or even thinking about challenging, American military hegemony.
And look at China's geopolitical neighborhood. As a result of historical enmity and massive power disparities, Beijing would have a tough time convincing Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan that its military buildup is anything but threatening. Consequently, the smaller East Asian states are likely to get over their mutual disagreements and stick it out together in the American-led alliance system for the foreseeable future.
To the north and west, China is bordered by Russia and India. China fought each of them as recently as the 1960s, and both are likely to be threatened by any serious Chinese military buildup. Unlike the United States, bordered by oceans and two friendly states, China is surrounded by enemies and rivals. Projecting power globally is hard when you've got to worry about defending your own turf
But what happens when China's GDP passes America's? Well, for one thing, we're not really sure when that will be. Realizing that current growth rates were economically and ecologically unsustainable, the Chinese government cut off the investment spigot that fueled its extraordinary 10 percent average annual growth. Today, China's growth rate is about half of what it was in 2007. One analysis suggests China's GDP may not surpass America's until the 2100s.
Moreover, China's GDP per capita is a long way off from matching Western standards. In 2012, the World Bank assessed China's at $6,009; the United States' was $57,749. The per-person measure of wealth matters in that it reflects the government's capacity to pay for things that make its citizens happy and healthy.
That's where China's internal headaches begin. The Chinese government has staked its domestic political legitimacy on delivering rapid, massive improvements in quality of life for its citizens. As growth slows, domestic political dissent may rise. Moreover, growth's worst side effect to date — an unprecedented ecological crisis — is also a source of massive discontent. China has 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities; environmental cleanup costs may hoover up 3 percent of China's GDP. That's throwing 30 percent of its yearly average growth (during the pre-2013 boom years!) down the drain.
The mass death and poisoning that follow as severe pollution's handmaidens threaten the very foundations of the Communist Party's power. American University China scholar Judith Shapiro writes that environmental protests — which sometimes "shut down" huge cities — are "so severe and so central to the manner in which China will 'rise' that it is no exaggeration to say that they cannot be separated from its national identity and the government's ability to provide for the Chinese people."
伴随着污染而导致的大规模死亡和中毒事件直接威胁到我dang的执政。美国大学中国学研究专家朱迪斯 虾皮罗 写到由于环保抗议，中国很多的城市服务终止并导致了城市瘫痪
That's hardly the only threat to the Chinese economy. China's financial system bears a disturbing resemblance to pre-crisis Wall Street. Its much-vaunted attempt to move away from an unsustainable export-based economy, according to Minxin Pei, may break on the rocks of massive corruption and other economic problems. After listing a slew of related problems, Pei suggests we need to start envisioning a world of "declining Chinese strength and rising probability of an unexpected democratic transition in the coming two decades."
But even if this economic gloom and doom is wrong, and China really is destined for a prosperous future, there's one simple reason China will never displace America as global leader: It doesn't want to。
Chinese foreign policy, to date, has been characterized by a sort of realist incrementalism. China has displayed no interest in taking over America's role as protector of the global commons; that's altogether too altruistic a task. Instead, China is content to let the United States and its allies keep the sea lanes open and free ride off of their efforts. A powerful China, in other words, would most likely to be happy to pursue its own interests inside the existing global order rather than supplanting it.
In 2003, Harvard's Iain Alastair Johnston analyzed data about Chinese hostility to the global status quo across five dimensions: participation in international institutions, compliance with international norms, twisting the rules that govern global institutions, making the transformation of global political power into a clear policy goal, and acting militarily on that objective. He found that China was "more integrated into and more cooperative within international institutions than ever before," and that there was "murky" evidence at best of intent to challenge the United States outside of them. Johnston reassessed parts of his argument in 2013 and concluded that not much had changed.
It actually, then, wouldn't be bad for Americans if China bears like Pei were wrong, and China really did blossom economically in the 21st century. China probably won't have the military means to challenge the foundations of global stability and prosperity, and even if it didn't, its leaders don't seem to want to.
And morally speaking, a Chinese boom would be great: Expanded Chinese economic growth has been the single greatest anti-poverty campaign in modern history. That's an extraordinary accomplishment Americans should be able to celebrate without any attendant status anxiety produced by the phantom of a Chinese world order.
Ngale （4days ago）
What about their cyber capabilities? It bugs me that there is no mention of that. Not criticizing though, love the article. Just wondering if they took that into account and if it would have any major impact.
ovi meron Guest • 2 days ago −
china going down with bililion of hungry folks can be way more challenging for the world 's well being , just as a swimmer rescuing someone drowning it may very well end up drowning too
Recommend studying Chinese History. When their Empire was blooming, within their World, their military , though impressive, was not considered to be the main defense of their State. An equal amount of effort was expended on an (expensive) winning-the-hearts-and-minds campaign
directed at all the surrounding Barbarians, by Bribery, awesome displays of the "Benefits of Civilization", etc. Such a great success that some of the Barbarians, like the Mongols and the Manchus, finally having succeeded in capturing the Empire, proceeded then to imitate it in just about every way, eventually giving in to ordinary corruption.
All this is a refreshing counterpoint of the rather crude, excessively military methods , of the US Empire, which so far have only succeeded in making enemies worldwide, even among former friends. As well as bankrupting us.
Wardawg02 disigny • 4 days ago −
Are you not forgetting that this brilliant system of bribes CAUSED the formation of the mongols as an existential threat ti anchu China? your facts are close to correct. If I was not on a mobile I would address your other errors.
bob disigny • 4 days ago −
The US is not an empire.
disigny bob • 3 days ago −
bob : My idea is, "If it quacks like a Duck, it doesn't matter what it calls itself." If you are saying that the US is not supposed to be an Empiire, I agree.
Classicist bob • 3 days ago
The US, with its significant history of territory acquisition and its global military presence, is very clearly imperialistic. It's a marvel of linguistics and propaganda that we simply take these facts for granted.
6161 Classicist • 2 days ago −
Yes and no.
It's an effect of linguistics that we proclaim an open international system of markets an "empire", when a) there obviously isn't (outside of heated political opprobrium) an emperor involved and b) the United States has been the largest force in world history for the dissolution of actual empires. Having once had over 50% of world GDP itself, it went out of its way to demolish its allies' empires, to refurbish old and new states, and to fully re-establish the economies of the third, fourth, and now second-place nations despite having fought wars against truly imperial governments within each within the last century. Even its own indisputable forays into true empire-building (Hawai`i, the Philippines, various actions related to the Monroe Doctrine) were generally forced upon it by the true European empires. The notable exception has been Panama, but even there the only interest has been in direct control of a canal vital to national interests.
That said, it is a democracy and—while (formerly) less corporatist than any other major economy in the world—it certainly tries to rig various parts of the international system in the interests of its donors. Even recent attempts to impose insanely long IP terms, though, were actually started in Europe and then brought here.