The Context of World Power: Is the Peoples Republic of China a Superpower?

Filed under: Global Issues,Political Issues |

President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China, arrives at Andrews Air Force Base

Some American commentators wants summit meetings between China and United States such as the one in California this week to turn into a kind of G-2, a relationship of equal power to manage the world’s problems. But that’s not the way they think about this relationship. China is not the worlds other superpower and we should not treat them as such. China has always played a rich hand brilliantly notwithstanding.

In February, 1972 when Richard Nickson went to China and restored China-US relation that has been broken for twenty-three (23) years. Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. In fact, china was in a mix of economic, political and cultural collapse and chaos. Its full capital GDP had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Now today of course China has tremendous assets. It is the world’s second largest economy and because of its size will one day become the largest.

But power is defined along many dimensions and by most political, military, strategic and cultural measures. China is a great power but not a global power. Its military strength for example is not even a quarter of Americas or that of other world power nations of the world, perhaps the most crucially it lacks for now the intellectual ambition to set the global agenda.

The scholar David Shambo who has always been on issues relating to China put it this way in his recent book he wrote, a very narrow minded, self interested, seeking only to maximize its own national interest and power (some months back if you can still recall, delegates from Nigeria met with their counterparts from China, requesting that China does something regarding the quality of products they export into the country, China refused. Till date, they still export hundreds of thousands of substandard products to Nigeria).

It cares little for global governance and enforcing global standards of behavior except its much bundled doctrines of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries. Its economic policies are passive. China is also a lonely strategic power. Shambo said, we cannot ally in experiencing distrusting strain relations with much of the world.

Now Beijing wants good relations with the United States and a general climate of external stability, that’s partly because it faces huge internal challenges. China’s leaders want to embark on a serious program of reforms at home and it’s searching for ways to generate greater legitimacy for the communist party of the people of China. Experimenting with the revival of nationalism.

Also Beijing wants to rise without creating a powerful anti-Chinese backlash among Asia other power like Japan and India. For its part the United State is right to seek good and deep relations with China, they will mean a stable, prosperous and peaceful work.

Further integrating china into an open global system, would help maintain that system and the open world economy that rest on it. But this can only happen if china recognizes and respects the system and operates from the perspective of a global power not a narrow minded self-seeking nation only to maximize its own interest. In order words, when china starts acting like a superpower, we should treat it like one.

Aside placing China where she stands in the world as regards superpower, my strongest opinion is that they must stop manufacturing and sending to other countries of the world, substandard products that are threat to peoples life.