The Western financial crisis heralded a significant shift in the balance of power between the United States and China. Most starkly, it brought forward the date when the Chinese economy will overtake the US economy in size from 2027 (the Goldman Sachs projection in 2005) to 2020. The reason is simple: while the US economy is around the same size as it was in 2008, with the prospect of perhaps a decade of very weak growth ahead, the Chinese economy has continued to grow at around 9 percent and future economic growth is likely to be in the region of 8 percent. While 2027 sounded sufficiently far in the future to sound speculative, 2020, in contrast, is less than a decade away and feels much more like an extension of the present. The rise of China and the decline of the United States is becoming more tangible by the year.
Will China ‘Rule the World’?
Despite his breathless title, Martin Jacques is not so sure. On the one hand, “China… is destined to become… ultimately the major global power.” On the other hand, “the challenge posed by the rise of China is far more likely to be cultural in nature” than political or military. But on further consideration, “As China becomes a global power, and ultimately a superpower, probably in time the dominant superpower, then it, like every other previous major power, will view the world through the prism of its own history and will seek, subject to the prevailing constraints, to reshape that world in its own image.” But then again, “For perhaps the next half-century, it seems unlikely that China will be particularly aggressive”; “for the next twenty years or so . . . it will remain an essentially status-quo power.” But after all, yes: “China’s mass will oblige the rest of the world largely to acquiesce in China’s way of doing things.”