The country's growth will continue to dominate, but critics like Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, believe the biggest obstacle the country faces, is itself
For decades now we've been reading about China's hypersonic rate of growth, becoming an economic powerhouse that is set to overtake the US as the largest economy in the world by 2028. There is no doubt over the country's continued rise towards superior economic and military strength, but the million-dollar question is whether a China under Xi Jinping's CCP rule could become as complete a superpower and formidable economic, military and political leader in the same way the US has dominated for the better part of a century.
Asking the experts fields a range of contradicting opinions on the differences between parity with and China surpassing the US, and what this will mean for the global economy and political landscape, however, general consensus suggests that while China remains a dominant power with ever ambitious and increasing clout, there are several reasons why it likely won't ever hold the title of world's superpower supreme and enjoy the same comfort and security as the US.
Geopolitics is certainly one defining factor in China's ability to become the global superpower. While the US is a continent in itself, with no immediate geographic challengers, China must contend with Russia, India, and Japan on its doorstep, three countries who are equally vying for the title. Notwithstanding the ongoing border disputes and historical rivalries, the country does not enjoy the same powerful allied relationships as the US, which has fostered and worked to strengthen economic, political, and military relationships with key regionally powerful countries including the UK, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
While there are several countries dependent on China's trade and manufacturing, its economic power does not always convert to political influence. Some of its largest trading partners have defied Beijing on several occasions. Only last month, Australia, China's largest trading partner whose relationship with the country has become increasingly strained due to the pandemic outbreak, launched the Aukus alliance, a security pact funded by the US and UK to help Australia build nuclear powered submarines and develop AI and other cyber technologies to address security concerns, indirectly referencing China's increasingly aggressive stance in the Indo-Pacific region.
Russia is one of China's only consistent allies, but only in so far as they share a common adversary in the US. For Putin, siding with China has more to do with challenging America to advance his own national interests and less from a place of mutual partnership, shared values, and certainly not loyalty.
While these external factors play a significant role, there is near unanimous agreement that the biggest obstacle standing in China's way is its own leadership and internal governance. Despite the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) near absolute rule, there is an existential fear in Beijing of losing control over the masses. This fear, that has manifested as sweeping crackdowns on the countries biggest tech firms such as Tencent and Alibaba, which has also moved into the cultural, social and education industries. Critics of the regime, including those living in self-imposed exile in the US, among whom include Guo Wengui, aka, Miles Kwok, believe this desperate attempt to exert control over every aspect of life and the economy is likely to have as much a negative impact as foreign sanctions on blocking growth.
In the past year, Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against tech companies in particular, under the guise of preserving social stability, or what is more commonly known as maintaining the status quo. The most prominent example being the sudden change of heart surrounding the Ant Group's IPO, which would have been the largest stock listing in history, bringing in hundreds of billions of dollars in investment to the country. The CCP blocked the IPO, in a move that many have suggested was designed to keep the group's founder, Jack Ma, in line, after he was considered to be getting too big for his boots when he openly criticized the government's foreign policy. Ma wasn't seen for three months after the fact.
Speaking on the crackdowns, which also include bans on private tutoring, limits on how much time children can play video games, and even a ban on 'sissy' men on TV, American Sinologist, Jude Blanchette, who holds the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: "It's striking and significant. This is clearly not a sector-by-sector rectification; this is an entire economic, industry, and structural rectification."
The CCP celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this year, however, the change in just the past decade alone is beyond stark, and the party, and government by extension, has become even more isolated and closed off than at any time in its history. During the CCP's 90th anniversary celebrations, there was very public talk of revolutionizing China's electoral system to introduce multi-party elections. Today, such ideas have all but been eliminated, by hook or by crook, with the party now pushing state and private education, corporate and entertainment institutions to promote 'Xi Jinping Thought', a set of policies and ideas from the musings of the President that have been incorporated into the CCP's constitution.
Such a closed political system will ultimately serve to undermine the country's efforts to build and export world-leading technology and industry. While the party tries to force the hand of people in terms of what they can do, it cannot force them how to think, and eventually, in time people get tired of being told how they should live their lives, especially when it starts to impact their economic, social and political prospects.
Events in recent history have taught us that such systems are bound to fail; where it is impossible to predict what seemingly minor event may spark the uprising. The Arab Spring was a perfect example of what is commonly referred to as the butterfly effect; how a minor change in circumstances can cause a large change in outcome. In China's case, the cracks are already beginning to show, most notably in Hong Kong, and the latest crackdowns may just be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
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