President Obama’s trip to China has provided a platform from which the media has chosen to stir up domestic anxiety over China’s changing role in world affairs. If you believe what you hear in the mainstream media the United States may as well just pack it in. We stand no chance against the Chinese juggernaut. We are in a slow, painful process of slinking our way off the world stage with our tail between our legs. Fareed Zarkaria, author of The Post-American World, and host of CNN’s GPS news program had the audacity to make his question of the week; Do you believe China is now the world’s superpower? After you read my blog post, and do your own research, I suggest you respond to Mr. Zakaria’s question at email@example.com
Well, as Mark Twain may have said; the news of our death is greatly exaggerated. It seems in the rush to stir the pot and keep people glued to the tube; they’ve chosen not to review the facts.
The United States has, by far, the largest economy in the world. According to World Bank figures, our gross domestic product in 2008 was over $14.2 trillion. China’s was $4.3 trillion. They were third, behind the U.S., and Japan. At number eleven on the list, Canada, our wonderful neighbor to the north, had a GDP in 2008 one-tenth the size of the United States. Our GDP was almost three times the size of #2 on the list, Japan.
When you look at the CIA Fact Book figures for 2008 per capita Gross Domestic Product, the rankings are even more interesting. The United States comes in tenth, at $47,500. China comes in one hundred thirty-third, at $6,000.
Not surprisingly, United Nations manufacturing output data has the United States and China ranked at numbers 1 & 2. The surprise however, is that the United States manufacturing output is nearly twice the size of China’s. Our annual manufacturing output has risen over $800 billion since 1990! This is more than the entire annual output of fourth-ranked global manufacturing powerhouse, Germany. (Time, May, 2009)
When it comes to military spending the United States has no peer. We spend more on our military than the next forty-five countries combined. We spend forty-eight percent of the world’s total amount spent on defense per year. We spend almost six times more than China does on their military, and ten times more than Russia. Our ability to project military power is not matched by any other power on earth.
If you look at strategic weapons, which are nuclear bombs deliverable atop intercontinental ballistic missiles, the United States maintains over seven thousand. China is estimated to have twenty strategic nuclear weapons. Total nukes, including tactical and spare puts the U.S. over ten thousand five-hundred, and China just over four hundred.
There are any number of statistics I could quote here to qualify my point that the United States is still an economic and military superpower. We in the United States have nothing to fear from China’s amazing rise from poverty. The global economy, and geopolitical affairs are not zero sum issues. We do not lose because China pulls hundreds of millions of their citizens out of poverty. The most dramatic eradication of poverty in the history of humankind.
Instead of fearing China’s rise we should welcome it. We should look forward to selling our products into their market of 1.2 billion people. We should welcome a partner to help share the burden of policing the unpolice-able. We should partner with them to develop the green technologies that will help all of us live in a world that has many more people living in urban centers, driving many more cars than anybody ever imagined.
As you know I am a realist. As China’s economy continues to grow, so will their influence. We have witnessed that, especially since the economic crash of September 2008. It used to be a given that our system, capitalism, was the way to run your economy. After the crash, and China’s relative stability during and after it, many in the world are not so sure it is the only way.
As China’s influence grows there is very likely going to be issues we do not agree with them on. There will be areas where our national interests collide. With a population four times the size of the United States, China’s GDP will eventually surpass that of ours. Many believe this could occur as soon as 2020. China may even surpass our per capita GDP at some point in the future.
So the same people who labeled the United States a hyperpower in 2001 are now saying the sky is falling. The ones who designated the post-Soviet era a uni-polar moment for the United States are now digging our geopolitical grave. My suggestion is to relax. Take a deep breath.
Do not let the media make up your mind on this issue. Do your own research. Book a trip to China and witness history there yourself. Don’t let ill-informed career politicians make decisions for us, the people, that put us on a path toward conflict with China. Do not allow those with a vested interest in those hundreds of billions of dollars in defense spending convince you that China is the next boogeyman. Do your research, make up your mind, and make your voice heard!
We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.