If you were in any doubt about who is emerging as the most powerful global power, both economic and politically, it would be China. Politically China today heralds the most “convening ability” in bringing to the table a maximum number of countries and regional powers. Its growing global political power is backed by its considerable economic versatility and output. Every developing nations can find a ready ear and a willing friend in China; every Minister support for his programs; every entrepreneur goods and technologies that can set her/him up in a good business for a minimum possible capital investment. “Technologies, goods and training” aka everything you need to see up in business is cheap in China albeit of suspect quality and sustainability. China is at the advert of becoming the next big superpower – that is the biggest super power for the next 100 years.
Political Power: Regional and Global
There is no end in sight to the long strategic game the China is playing in the region, to secure their primacy politically and strategically. They have their eyes on a 100 years strategy and every 5 years they re-examine and reassess their strategy in light of current events and trends. Xi’s bid for eternal governance and regency is in line with the Chinese view of political strategy which is a continuous roll of events and results that demand a similar continual rolling out of initiatives and strategies, the core objectives and goals of which remain the same. This is why there was no big ripple in China by the Chinese people to the announcement that President Xi will be in leadership until he decides to leave. In fact China views the next 100 years as decisive for the world and China’s leadership of it. It is in response to this that Xi has announced his own continuous contribution to the glory and consolidation of China’s global leadership.
In its relationship with other countries China adopts policies that will serve it during the next 100 years and is not aiming for short term results like USA and Europe, but those that are realizable in 20, 40 and 60 years. So building parliamentary buildings and whole highways for developing countries in Africa is a step in a 100 year strategy. China will reap the rewards for decades to come. In comparison, USA and Europe’s more mercurial and short term wish lists are unpopular because China is not asking for a lot now but USA and Europe are. The Spratley Islands East China Sea initiative is one clog in the longer term strategy and also the most sensitive one- most likely to backfire if opposition from the neighboring counties persists.
In relation to the US China has perhaps the most complicated relationship. China owns a lot of the huge US national debt – about 35%. China exports and imports a lot from the US but it does have an inferiority complex. China and Chinese are not natural born entrepreneurs. They are not inventive. They cannot create a process of commerce from zero but they are good at replicating. That is how their economy and their political system works; not creative but regurgitative. This single missing trait will not allow them to overtake the US economically in an even fight. But China will use whatever means, including playing foul with the national debt, cheating in every way possible and in the end, winning by overtaking the US in relationship-building with client states that buy industry and industrial output. Politically China is winning because of the longer terms view. The US is going down politically due to the combustion of ignorance mixed with democracy and decadence.
Europe is different but too small to pose a significant challenge to China; relationship are deeper with the Europeans but Europe now has less to offer emerging countries as their own economies are in retro-spin. Still Europe is a more serious challenge to China in the longer term then the US.
In relation to Russia, China is comfortably in the lead. Russia has a history of patronage in the developing world and that carries what relationships remain into the present. Russia as compared with China has very little political clout to offer. What advantage Russia had has been destroyed with Syria. China is building relationship and is on the upswing. Russia is losing out in political relationships and their soft power is abating.
Military Power: the Lion and the Cheetah
Over the last 50 years, the US has invested an insane amount of money in military technology and hardware. Today, the US is the latest and most powerful military in the world. It has to maintain the industries linked to the military and so this has meant that it is also the largest weapons exporter in the world. In modern warfare, Europe also has a formidable advantage. Their military technology has evolved with the times and today Europe has a cost to output savvy industry. China by contrast is slow and a follower and a copier.
Russia has a stockpile of weapons, including nuclear and chemical weapons but in terms of technological advantage, Russia is not in the race. Their war is going on in the cyber world but in terms of military hardware, China dose not have to worry about Russia.
Economic Power and Sustainability
Regionally China is the big white elephant in the arena; most countries want their custom and money but do not like the political cow-tow that is demanded in exchange. Chinese tourists are disliked but bring in a majority of the money today into economies around the world, particularly South- East and Pacific Asia. Chinese business is moving in to the spaces and roles that for 100 years have been occupied by America and European corporations. And there is a sense of smug condescension from the Chinese towards their neighbors when doing business, but in the eyes of all Asians, that treatment was no different than they have been experiencing with the Americans and Europeans before, only this time it is a special brand of Asian sneer. Africa is easier and somehow Africa is fast becoming a Chinese economic colony.
China has an economic basis and manpower that is hard for the US, Europe and Russia to compete. The Chinese work ethic and the hard drive of Chinese people to reach economic security is amazing and unparalleled. If China continues on the present trajectory it will be the largest economy in the world in 5-10 years.
However, the point is that China is not satisfied with that. They want to lead in creating technology and invention. Their strategy is to amp up their creativity and inventiveness and to work on creating this new China in the coming 20 years. That mindset conversion will be Xi’s lasting economic legacy.
No mater which way you look at China, it is winning. There are very few trip ups on the way and only something like Spratley Islands or North Korea could deflate temporarily their political and economic assent. In the longer term, there is no challenge and no one that can mount one.