More than a decade after China’s explosive growth began to trigger news headlines in the West, there remain two distinct schools of thought.

In one camp are those who say China’s continued ascent — and its eventual crowning as the world’s largest economy — is inevitable.

In the other are those who see the recent decline of the U.S. economy, and Uncle Sam’s reduced stature globally, as a mere historical blip, and that the idea of “American exceptionalism” (i.e., the spread of U.S. democratic ideals and free market principles) will soon reassert itself.

China believers say its huge population, superior growth rates, massive foreign currency reserves, pro-growth policies and cultural cohesion all but ensure that it will one day sit atop the global economy.

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It was significant but not astonishing news last week that China has eclipsed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy

More surprising is that the great economic strides have given rise to uncertainty about China’s prospects.

Can China hope to maintain its torrid growth, avoiding more of the social upheaval hinted at when sporadic riots broke out among furloughed factory workers during the Great Recession? Can a traditionally frugal 5,000-year-old society transform itself into a consumer economy like the U.S.? Or will continued reliance on exports culminate in the economic stagnation endured by Japan these past two decades?

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The Middle Kingdom’s prosperity is an illusion. And when China finally falls, we’ll all feel the pain

As fearmongering election campaign ads go, it’s hard to top the “Chinese Professor,” which flickered across the Internet just before Americans went to the polls last fall. In the spot, set in a sleek Beijing lecture hall 20 years in the future, a sharply dressed Chinese instructor explains to his Asian students why previous empires, from Ancient Greece to the U.S.A., turned to dust. The Americans failed because they lost sight of their principles, he says in Mandarin, with subtitles. They overspent, overtaxed and over–borrowed. “Of course, we owned most of their debt,” he cackles, as the class joins in. “So now they work for us.”

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China is flexing its trade and military muscles. What does it mean for the West?

In the world of prized metals, dysprosium lacked a certain star power. It lies deep in the so-called f-block of the periodic table—that free-floating part near the bottom you never used in high school chemistry—along with the other so-called rare-earth elements with tongue-twisting names like neodymium and lutetium. No one ever set out with mule and pick-axe to find dysprosium. It occurs only as a constituent part of other mineral compounds, which explains why its name derives from the Greek for “hard to get at.”

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On Thursday, July 1, China announced the launch of CNC World, a new global English-language TV network, to be available through satellite and on the Internet. Part of China’s official news agency, it is intended to project a China-friendly perspective on issues to the world – ostensibly to help outsiders understand China better.

To most analysts in the West, however, the launch of this network represents another sign of China’s growing prominence and confidence on the world stage – further evidence of its emerging status as the world’s next “superpower.” But is it really? A superpower is generally understood to be a nation, empire, or civilization that can project power globally; that is, a nation that possesses economic, political and cultural or “soft” power along with overwhelming military or “hard” power.

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Q: We in the West spend a great deal of time discussing China’s rise. But we seem to resist the next logical step, which is to consider how things will change around the world when China becomes the world’s pre-eminent economic power. Why is that?

A: I think that the world has been so used to American hegemony, and you had a recent period of American history under Bush which actually postulated exactly the opposite scenario—that we were in fact on the eve of a new American century. So we’re just not versed in the profoundly different thinking China’s pre-eminence will require. More than that, we have failed to understand that we’re not just talking about economic change. The impact of China’s rise is going to be at least as great politically and culturally as it will be in economic terms.

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30/05/09 - Canadian National Post

A certain genre of Western literature can be summed up by the title of one of its earliest entries, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, published in 1918. As the title suggests, the author had a dire view of Western democracy. The defeat of fascism in the Second World War ought to have cheered everyone up, but the guns had barely stopped firing before we had books such as The West at Bay, by British economist Barbara Ward, about the “Communist challenge,” and Witness, by Whittaker Chambers, an even more sober assessment of that challenge. Chambers was sure the West was going to lose this battle for hearts and minds.

Even relatively tame Japan loomed as a menace to the West in the ’80s. I recall one book, whose title I forget, predicting a new Asian Pacific war between the United States and Japan — a classic instance of Marshall McLuhan’s rear-view mirror. Since the ’90s, the invincible Japanese, those economic if not military giants, have been humbled by their own woes and have ceased to trouble the dreams of the West, and the United States in particular.

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