Skip to content
Advertisements

Here Are Seven Superpower Metrics Dominated By China

June 28, 2018

Depending on how its economic data is interpreted, it’s only a matter of time before China overshadows the US and asserts control over global trade. But another point of view championed by Sino-skeptics claims that intrinsic faults in its one party system’s governance, coupled with macroeconomic trends, will doom China to long-term stagnation sooner rather than later.

Either way, there’s little evidence to suggest China is fading from the world stage. The opposite is happening, in fact. As Beijing and Washington, DC exchange glancing blows over trade, it’s helpful to examine the salient features of China’s newfound prominence. Here are seven categories where it reigns at first place.

AI

While the US enjoys the largest share of venture capital in the technology sector globally, China and India are vying for the top spot by allowing startups to run wild in their cities. But when it comes to the dizzying domain of artificial intelligence or AI, where software assumes roles once performed by humans, China beat the rest by a single annoying benchmark: There was more funding for Chinese AI research and companies in 2017 than in the US or anywhere else.

The world hasn’t realized the full potential of AI yet. But when coupled with advances in business processes and robotics it can actually change human society forever. It’s a possibility so exciting, China wants to win in this game.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

ELECTRICITY

It’s damn obvious China’s no holds barred industrialization has taken a massive toll on the well-being of its citizens and the environment. As if this weren’t bad enough, coal remains the primary fuel source for its national power grid. While huge strides have been made in nuclear technology and renewables like solar and wind, the country will have to remain a major importer of oil and unapologetic fossil fuel fiend for decades to come. The reasons for this are obvious: a huge population, nearly immeasurable urban sprawl, and vital industries that need to maintain their output year after year.

Of course, once India catches up, then it might be a filthy tie for decades and decades. It’s the Asian century, remember?

INTERNET USE

In the span of just 20 years China became the world’s largest online population. The latest statistics reveal 800 million of its 1.3 billion citizens use the Internet on a daily basis–and it shows. China is now crawling with startups  and a frenzied gaming culture has taken root. Its local e-commerce is arguably superior to rivals in the US and many cities are now almost cashless as citizens use their smartphones for day-to-day transactions. Yes, smartphones are ubiquitous. The majority of Chinese who are active online do so via their favorite handheld devices.

There’s a half billion more citizens who are migrating online in the 2020s. This means anything related to consumer tech in China has a bright future.

PATENTS

China’s leaders always knew that stealing intellectual property was a game of diminishing returns. As the People’s Republic began turning away from low-cost manufacturing after Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012, the government did all it could to boost genuine homegrown innovation. By 2013 China emerged the clear leader in new patent applications throughout Asia, leaving Japan and South Korea far behind. It quickly surpassed the US that same year and for the first time in modern history, a Communist state was recognized as a global innovation hub.

In 2018 China’s status as the biggest source of international patent applications remained undisputed. Thanks in part to the ambitious “Made in China 2025” program, the coming generation of disruptive tech will in all likelihood be Chinese.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

PURCHASING POWER PARITY

In 2014 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that China had clearly surpassed the US in a single befuddling niche. When the prices of all goods produced in a country during a single year are measured with prices in another country, this determines the value for GDP by PPP. That’s Gross Domestic Product calculated by Purchasing Power Parity. At the time, China’s PPP reached $17,600,000,000,000 of PPP compared to the US’ own $17,400,000,000,000.

Four years later and the gap has only widened. China’s PPP is now at $23,000,000,000,000 compared to just $20,000,000,000,000 for the US. But these are just statistical comparisons for monetary value. American technology and wealth remains ahead of China though the gap is as thin as ever.

SOLDIERS

China maintains the world’s largest military with a total strength of 2.3 million men and women. Under Xi Jinping, however, the force structure has been trimmed a bit amid a sweeping anti-corruption purge that has seen many high ranking officers fall from grace. As formidable as the PLA appears on paper, it does lag behind its neighbors–Japan’s own navy is more than equal to China’s. Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear arsenal is overwhelming compared to the modest stockpile controlled by China’s rocket forces. When it comes to aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, and force projection, the the US air force and navy are decades ahead.

Now let’s be honest here, India can mobilize just as many jawans if it wanted to.

STEEL

Metallurgy has historic roots in China. But the People’s Republic needed generous support from the Soviet Union to really establish its steel mills, which were operating below capacity in the 1950s. After the doldrums of the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s death, China’s steel output has maintained an upward trajectory since 1981. By 2017 Chinese foundries were responsible for 49.2% of global output, a shocking percentage that left India, Japan, and the US trailing far behind.

The sheer volume of China’s steel production is now so great, it’s being condemned as a potential threat to manufacturers worldwide. The reasoning goes if China’s excess steel is sold abroad, it will collapse prices everywhere.

Via Joe Chan.

POSTSCRIPT

In case you’re wondering, China has the biggest labor force on the planet and is also the number one producer of automobiles, cement, seafood, semiconductors, and rice and wheat–to name a few. While it’s convenient to accept its rise as inevitable, the imminent dangers facing the country’s leadership are scary. For example, it’s clear as day the US is now assembling allies and readying policies to confront China and diminish its power.

In the medium-term, a shrinking pool of young professionals and enormous entitlements for its aging population will put a strain on the government’s finances. There are also the long-term threats posed by climate change, environmental degradation, and income inequality that may overwhelm China’s institutions.

On top of this, there’s a genuine risk that multiple wars may erupt along its periphery. There’s the specter of aggressive Taiwanese independence, lingering territorial disputes with India and Japan, a full-blown conflict with the US over the Korean peninsula or the South China Sea…even the far-fetched scenario of having to “save” an unstable Afghanistan in the near future.

So it’s not easy being China, but history is cruel this way. Nations that achieve greatness must carry the weight of the world before their vigor ebbs and disappears.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: