I Measure The Chinese – Economy, Geography, Military & Geopolitics As It Stands Today While We Optimistically Wish Into An Uncertain Future.

There seems to be a re-occurring question in the culture. Will China be the next super power? There is a sense that China’s rise to usurp the US as the definitive global superpower is an inevitability. Global powers have predictably risen and fallen alongside the cyclical rotations of history. But unlike the narrative the purveyors would have you believe, these things are only ever been explicable in hindsight.

  • Will the US fall. Yes.
  • Will China one day rise. Likely.
  • Will China replace the US as the global superpower in the 21st century… I am not so sure.

It is true that a casual perusal of the current state of affairs might leave one pessimistic in the face of a Chinese certainty, but such are things of this nature, there is infinitely more complexity than you or I can ever hope to understand.

  • China has >1.38 billion people.
  • China’s superiority complex pulsates through the generations.
  • China has the world’s 2nd largest economy.
  • The CCP is untrustworthy.
  • The CCP is aggressive both internally and on the global stage with transparent maliciousness.

These are the headlines in support of the Chinese mutiny narrative. They are all relevant but they are all misleading. This article breaks down into specific headings the arguments for and against China’s rise to supremacy.

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DISCLAIMER – Ryan Faulkner-Hogg & Atlas Geographica

I am not an expert on anything. I am just a guy who is endlessly fascinated by the functioning dynamics of geopolitics and all the variables that go into making a country, culture and people.

Although I do make reference to other work that supports my opinions, everything written below is still precisely and ONLY that. My opinions.

I am absolutely prepared to be wrong about some (hopefully not much) of what I have written here. I am not really bothered by offending anyone, but I am absolutely bothered by being abjectly wrong about something. So with that in mind, anything that you estimate I have gotten totally wrong. I encourage you to comment it – with correction – at the conclusion of the article, and then if what you say is indeed correct. I will make the amendments.

China’s Economy & Demography

The last 40 years of Chinese economic growth is arguably the largest, fastest and most remarkable economic feat of history.

To make a very inspiring, corrupt and complicated story short. After the death of the soulless Mao Zedong in 1976, (otherwise known as Chairman Mao, potentially responsible for more deaths than any other man in history). China carefully orienteered itself towards those particular corners of the free market that might have contradicted a communist’s idea of central planning but nonetheless suited the interests of the nation at the time.

And thus, with the combination of the world’s biggest, most centralised labour force and a culture that elevates the value of work above all else, China re-positioned itself as the world’s manufacturer.

“No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich”

— Chinese Proverb From The Rice Paddy.

GDP Tells Not The Whole Story

china gdp atlas geographica
1.

Something that has been known forever but only proven true recently, is China’s lies and misinformation concerning domestic data. China told lie after lie on the international stage in early 2020. They failed a test of transparency and kept much of the crucial Covid-19 data they had collected to themselves.

It turns out you can’t trust an inherently imperialistic culture when it comes to data that threatens their ambition to be imperial.

China today is the worlds second-largest economy by GDP. Just to measure a picture of perspective, peruse the 2019 numbers.

gdp per country 2019 atlasgeographica.com
1.A

Significantly bigger than third, but still quite a way off first.

Notice as well two of the most important indicators from this data – the Growth Rate & GDP Per Capita. China’s rate of economic growth has astounded economists and international markets for almost half a decade now. Every year they seem to double down on their previous and churn out higher and higher fiscal outputs. The GDP growth rates are, however, potentially contentious – more on this soon.

China’s GDP Per Capita Consideration

What insight into China’s course for global domination does the GDP per capita yield? GDP per capita measures, just in case you were unaware, the GDP (output) for a country, divided by the population. It is far from a perfect measurement but intends to shed light on comparative standards of living. And so China might have the second largest GDP in the world, but when measured per capita they have a less impressive ‘developing’ standard.

Which is to say, despite their outstandingly impressive economy, when all the money created is chopped 1.4 billion times, it turns out that the per-person output is not comparable to the other major economies of the world. This implies lower wages, less skilled labour, and manufacturing hinged on an ability to compete via labour cost rather than the preferred… labour sophistication.

This is not a criticism of the Chinese people. Far from it. They are exceptional in the very trait we in the west fawn over most admiringly. Chinese labour works hard (see the rice farmer proverb earlier). It is a consequence of education, infrastructure and economic opportunity that we in Australia, Sweden, the USA, etc have the opportunity to work the other side of that coin – ‘sophisticated labour’.

The Chinese labour force (as a whole) are not privileged to the same opportunity to ‘level up’ their labour output as we are in the ‘developed world’.

But as such, China more or less serves as the manufacturers of the world’s stuff, a prospect made possible by unskilled labour who will work for less than the rest. Things are changing however, China’s labour is levelling up. And crucially, they have the inherent input which matters most as all the details and shifting variables change around them… they work hard. They value work. A hard-working man is a symbol of admiration in their culture.

This is very important and foundational when considering China’s prospect of usurping the US as the world’s superpower. There are 1.38 billion people who share an idealised culture that celebrates the working man. Imagine a Chinese workforce who, through better education, infrastructure, and economic opportunity (all things China are implementing rapidly) ‘level up’ to ‘sophisticated labour’.

Well – the cheap labour would move to wherever it was next the best value proposition and China would (through very simplified brush strokes on my end) manage to increase their GDP output corresponding to an as well in GDP per capita. ‘Sophisticated’ goods, such as electronics, cars and services yield significantly higher margins than do ‘cheap consumables’ and primary universal inputs (packaging, plastics, cheap stuff).

The cheap plastic cartons that I saw in ridiculous abundance in Guangzhou (more on that later), could have barely yielded a few cents per container profit for the manufacturer. But in a sense of foreshadowing across the sea to Taiwan and its pride and joy TSCM. A semiconductor yields a big margin because in its manufacturing it has leveraged ‘sophistication of labour’ over ‘price of labour’.

GDP Growth Rates

In my recent conversation with Alex Marcon, he brought to my attention a little known but nonetheless hugely influential accounting practice that differentiates how the Chinese do it from the rest. It explains in part China’s astounding year on year growth rates and calls into question again just how much we can trust their numbers. Bare with me and forgive me for this brief accounting explanation…

Essentially, when you make an investment into a piece of infrastructure (backbone of domestic spending, GDP) – say a building – you return to that investment a year after it is functioning and measure the value it now yieldss. Often is the case that returns are significantly lower than you had anticipated upon the original investment (for a variety of reasons not relevant here), in these cases, you right down the depreciated value of that asset which is then recorded as a loss, therefore striking a (-) against (output) GDP rather than a (+) because the depreciated value of your investment is a loss on output. There is way more to it beyond what I understand, but hopefully, that explanation suffices for the purposes of this article.

The process mentioned above are ‘regular’ accounting practices. This keeps the true value of things honest. To be sure there is still much fuckery to be found within this system, but it is nonetheless starkly different to the smoke and mirrors supposedly uncovered in China.

China does not go back and measure the depreciation of its domestic assets as a loss against GDP – and therefore, they allow themselves to present GDP growth rates to the rest of the world that are significantly more inflated than reality reveals. Take China’s ghost cities as an example.

Chinese Ghost Cities

Just take a look at China’s ghost cities, a truly remarkable example of stupidity by design. These cities are great opportunities for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) to spend billions of $$ to ‘fuel’ economic growth. An excuse to purchase tons more coal and iron from Australia, tons more sand from Malaysia, and tons of all the other resources required to build a city from China’s trade partners. These infrastructure projects also provide thousands of jobs for Chinese citizens and ultimately has all the hallmarks of smart economics.

One problem though, if no one ends up using and consuming what you spent billions of $$ to create, then at the end of the day it is a total waste of… well, everything. And the ACTUAL value you create is NOTHING.

Honest accounting must strike this loss as a (-) to your income, however, the Chinese assume the economic value of these empty cities as if they were occupied, and so strike their value as a (+).

Can you see the problem here? China’s GDP figures are drastically inflated. GDP does a terrible job at spelling a nation’s prosperity at the best of times, but in China’s case, forget about it!

china ghost cities atlas geographica
1.B

Does China Have A Good Economy? What About Standards Of Living?

Although the comparison of GDP figures is a good dick measuring competition, I’ve always been happily reassured that size isn’t everything.

If we are thinking about China as the next global superpower then we need to be asking what their economy actually consists of, rather than just asking how big it is. China are the manufacturers of the world (although seemingly less so year on year) but they do not manufacture, on the whole, complicated products, they rather manufacture low skill, high demand staple products. By the way – one of the main reasons we should stand behind Taiwan even more, but perhaps more of that later.

A Quick Story

In 2017 I got lost in China and found myself walking through the smog laden streets of Guangzhou. I had never heard of this city before, I knew I was on the Chinese side of Hong Kong but that’s about it. Anyway, it turned out that Guangzhou had a population north of 20,000,000 people. I was astounded. I had never heard of this place before, yet its population equalled that of my entire country (Australia). It was this mass of people tucked away right next to another overly populated place, Hong Kong! Walking the streets of this mega city cemented for me my opinion of China more than anything else I have ever read or seen since.

It was disgusting without any of the charms the developing world can sometimes offer – like charming, impromptu markets, families eating at plastic tables, people hanging out and dodging work on a Tuesday afternoon – there was none of it. After walking for barely ten minutes I could feel soot in my mouth and spat an off coloured grey onto the cement. I picked my nose out of itchiness and pulled out an off-black booger. I had been in dirty places before ay, I thought I was pretty comfortable with some rough ‘n tumble, but this filth managed so quickly to enter my body, it was terrible. I started to notice the faces around me more – I was no longer viewing this city through the lens of an excited traveller, the misery had affected me, and clearly everyone else as well.

I was walking next to an eight-lane street that would have been called a highway in any other country. Lined on either side of this road was exclusively ‘micro’ plastic distributors. It was so bizarre, there must have been thirty shopfronts in a row all selling the exact same plastic tubs, just in different colours. I walked past nail shops, screw shops, weird foreign ornamental shops, nothing that screamed ‘thriving business’ to me at all.

What Good Is GDP When Your Standard Of Living Is So Bad

A huge part of the Chinese success story is the elevation of millions and millions of Chinese out of poverty and into a better life.

There is truth to this narrative, after all by the end of Mao, standards of living were so low that should anything change there was only one direction they could go. I was in the ‘wealthy’ district of Guangzhou I later found out. This was your nice district?

There are 1,398,000,000 Chinese people. I am sure there are places in Shanghai, Beijing, even Guangzhou that rival the nicest places in America, Australia or Europe – but how many of the 1,398,000,000 live there?

The truth is that the huge majority of the Chinese population who have been lifted from poverty have done so to see marginal increases to their standards of living. It is true that life is better now for them than it was. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise, but once food security and health security are taken care of what is the ‘flavour of life’? Independence? Liberty? Perhaps not, this is likely just my projection onto the situation, but nonetheless what can be asserted as fact is that the standard of living I experienced that day in Guangzhou was awful. I ate fine food and stayed in a fine hotel, yet it was awful. The people were miserable and the pollution unrelenting.

I could see terrible desperation behind those few eyes I interacted with. So, what good is your GDP growth when your population cannot thrive off the back of it? All the economic indicators point towards an increase in the standard of living but in typical fashion, fail to address the details that form their conclusion.

1.C

China’s Economic Pivot Into Tech

China is the most technologically integrated economy in the world. This is in full credit to the centralised control government has over individuals lives. The CCP regulates everything from the applications people download, the companies that make the applications, and even finally, when and how those devices and corresponding hardware are installed.

Thus you have entirely engrossing companies like ‘WeChat’ which inform not only the full Chinese citizen’s life but as well the government of this citizen. You as well have the controversial policies enacting the social crediting system. China has the curious disposition of being both extraordinarily technologically integrated whilst also lacking sovereign innovations of their own.

social credit atlas geographica china
1.D

They are seemingly entirely reliant on the west for the most sophisticated parts of their economy. For example, Sweden is selling China facial recognition software and China have a long history of simply ‘reverse engineering’ innovative tech birthed in the West. Huawei is reverse engineered Samsung, Alibaba is reverse engineered Amazon, Didi is reverse engineered Uber, the list is extensive. For most giant western tech companies you have a Chinese equivalent carbon copy except for quality and name.

China companies in the west atlas geographica
1.E

Does This Sound Like An Economy Who Can Usurp The West?

Yes it does actually – despite the inference you might have expected.

All of the above is in one way or another commentary on standards of living and economic robustness. China is an extractive economy, but this by no means doesn’t allow them to simply expand outwards the land on which they extract.

Yes it sounds like an economy that can do it, but thankfully a proper usurpation will require far more than economic weapons. It requires the coalescence of economy, military, geography and geopolitics.

Those subheadings are what we will address now.

facial recognition china atlas geographica
1.F

Chinese Demographics

One Child Policy Atrocities

Thinking about China’s demographics begins and ends with a discussion of their thirty year long (1979-2015) ‘One Child Policy‘.

The policy is immoral and created the most despicable of incentives. An amendment to the policy was made in the ’80s for rural families where if the firstborn was a daughter then they could try again for a second. I wonder what atrocities took place to warrant this amendment…

Charlie Munger famously said, “Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome”.

When you take an otherwise extremely fertile population who value men over woman and say that they can only have one child, you create horrific incentives which, as Munger foreshadows, creates horrific outcomes.

Left to the natural order, a population will on average have approximately a 50/50 distribution between the genders. Nature always returns to equilibrium and values balance. China’s gender split is approximately 56/44 in favour of men. How do you think this skew occurred? There were millions of abandoned and aborted babies in China over the last thirty years simply because they were girls. Not all families can afford doctors and abortions, therefore… the horror is amplified.

There are 40,000,000 more men than women in China. This unbalance is entirely unnatural and only has negative consequences. In a country that makes travel to other nations extremely difficult you are left in a situation where quite simply most of these men will never find a wife. Compounded against China’s woeful immigration numbers you are ultimately left with 40,000,000 men who are unlikely to become rooted to a family and therefore vulnerable to manipulation. I understand this is extremely presumptive. But what are we to make of this information?

I would assert that the one Child Policy is responsible for as many if not more deaths than any wartime policy. It will exist in history as one of the most evil policies ever implemented.

china demographics atlasgeographica
1.G

How Demographics Effect China’s Run At Global Supremacy

30 years of the One Child Policy has left China severely handicapped. They have an ageing population and barely enough young to support them.

Ageing Population

The problems of an ageing population go beyond economic. There is an equal effect on the culture. Entire generations were raised as only children. They did not have the socialising effect of siblings to shape their personality around.

Now obviously, being an only child does not condemn you to a stifled social development. This is clear to anyone who knows someone who came from a 3 person family, however, we are talking about China here. They deal in numbers far bigger than we do. Sure, most of the only children will develop perfectly normally, without stifle, but when taking a sample size in the millions, then we can start to draw some effective assumptions on how an entire generation of only children might affect the culture.

However, let’s quickly look at two of the biggest drawbacks to an ageing population.

Decline In Working Age Population

The economy was built by workers who are now leaving the workforce and leaving the labour supply insufficiently stuffed to carry on the torch. Less labour to meet the demands of an ever-expanding economy compounded with the growing requirements of that economy to pay retirement checks to former workers makes for bad soup.

Dependency Ratio + Economic Burden

The dependency ratio measures the difference between an increasing demand on government tax receipts (healthcare for the elderly, pension for the elderly) and a decreasing pool of labour to produce those tax receipts (young, less numerous population). Now, to be fair, this is a phenomenon that is striking down many western nations as well, however, not to the same degree as China. China does not have healthy migration levels to attract young men and women into the country who act as a net benefit to the economy (no dependents).

Ultimately, for China to realise its ambition to be the next superpower than it must maintain and continue along with its economic growth targets. This funds the military and as well their dept diplomacy the world over. Central to their claim at supremacy are healthy economic vitals, and a severely ageing population could cause a flat line. The only shortcut out of it is to cull or simply forget about significant proportions of the elderly population, which, I am afraid to say China is capable of doing.

Population Distribution

Considering the countries considerable population I imagine you would expect a relatively distributed populous. However, part of China’s monumental rise has included a necessary density shift into urbanised areas. You need a focused capital and labour location to manage the growth.

94% of the population live in the eastern 1/3rd of the country. Notice the Hu Line below. The East of China is closer to the coastline for trade, has a much higher agricultural yield, and is historically where the Han Chinese dynasties have sat.

This extraordinarily uneven population distribution is not as uncommon a phenomenon as you might think. My own country, Australia, looks very similar to the Hu Line, with the great majority of people occupying just a 5% sliver of the east coast. The country I live in now, Sweden, a large country. Has a significant amount of its population divided between 3 cities 100’s of km from each other with all the space in between being essentially unoccupied.

So China’s wildly uneven population distribution is not unique to them. But again… it is China. They are dealing with scale and numbers that simply blow out of the water any comparison you care to make.

6% of China’s population occupy 66% of their land. Also – unsurprisingly, it is in this land that the majority of China’s ethnic minorities live as well. Economic opportunities are less so in these regions. Exploitation is more common. Life is harder.

china population distribution

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China’s Geography

China’s geography is extremely diverse. The climate fluctuates between extreme opposites in the tropical south all the way to a frozen subarctic in the north. Everything from over 14,000km of coastline in the east to huge swathes of uninhabited desert in the west. There is lot’s of opportunity for agriculture in China, you have plenty of access to freshwater given an abundance of mountains (the Himalayas making for huge geopolitical tension with India – more on that later). China has plenty of access to fish, and they are perfectly situated as a natural regional power based on geography alone.

China has terrific natural borders to stave off attacks. The Himalayas to the south divides the worlds two most populous nations, the east is defensible via coastline, the western border nations and region is largely uninhabitable, it is simply the expansive and open steppe that has given China its historical threats. Think of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. China houses some of the best potential for hydroelectricity in the world and is largely self-sufficient for all inputs except energy. Something which, depending on who you believe, might be resolved by China’s investments into solar energy.

China is the single largest CO2 emitter in the world (view my article on a global carbon tax) and have some of the worst air quality you will ever experience on this fine planet, the third rock from the Sun. China has an embarrassingly large pollution problem and their cultural shift away from Confucianism and environmentalism has left a gaping hole for addressing a solution to the pollution.

Let’s take a trip around the Chinese perimeter.

Chinese Border

South

Starting in the South-East corner of the Chinese border we have what would otherwise be an enormous threat/opportunity. This is the the long border starting from the tip of India, running across Nepal, and finishing down through the lip of Myanmar. The worlds second longest natural border, only second to the Andes of South America, the Himalayas.

This huge natural obstacle has not stopped China from trying to assert its dominion though. Much of the water supply India so desperately rely on is threatened by Chinese damming projects. This aggression is a natural first step, but it seems as technology improves the natural border that divides the worlds two largest populations will become less and less of an obstacle.

West

China shares a border with four of the five Stan countries. It is the sad case that in most Western regions of China there is an ongoing exploitation and in some cases decimation of the cultural minorities who align more closely with their Stan neighbours than the Han Chinese of the East. These four borders are not hotly contested territory, mostly because of the uninhabitable and low resource-rich nature of the area.

These Western borders however are crucial in China’s ‘New Silk Road‘ ambitions. Railways connecting China’s ports off the east to as far as Europe’s ports of the West and feasibly everywhere in between that can be made possible.

It is also in this Western region where the current Uighur catastrophe is taking place. I recorded an interview with a man who wrote a book on this great human catastrophe here with Geoffrey Cain.

North

Russia is the only strategically important border to really pay attention to here, although that shouldn’t undermine the story of Mongolia. China populates the Manchuria region of China (top-right) about 1000-1 when measured against the population in Russian Manchuria on the other side. Russia and China are ‘natural allies’ of sorts, despite not always seeing eye to eye on communism and the US.

The border with Mongolia is an interesting one despite it also doubling as a natural border. The Gobi desert that separates Mongolia and China cuts through the sovereignty of ethnic Mongolia. There is a state in China known as Inner Mongolia. And to my surprise, here you will see twice the population of actual Mongolia, filled with ethnic Mongolians. Similar to other ethnic minorities living within China’s sovereign, this Mongolian minority have also been subject to some attempts at cultural destruction.

East

The Eastern border is the most interesting to me. Now, you might assert that “China does not border any countries to the East mate” and you would be totally right, however! China does have an Eastern border, and a spicy one it is at that.

If you stand on one of China’s sad, Eastern beaches and look out into the world you will see a wall in front you. This is the fascinating geopolitics of the South-China Sea. Looking East, you will see the combination islands of Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines as well as some Indonesian which will be staring back at you. These are all allies with your biggest enemy (USA), and are all capable of striking you where you are weakest (water, the navy). This is also the border with which you interact most with the world (trade).

Not a good combination of circumstances if your plan is to take over.

The Good & Bad Of China’s Geography

The Good

China is – depending on border disputes – either the 3rd or 4th largest country in the world by landmass. They make extremely efficient use of their 15% potential arable land, with only 1% committed to permanent crops. The rest of the arable land is temporary crops, China achieves the remarkable feat of not only being able to feed themselves, the largest population on the planet, but they still have yield leftover for export.

China also houses significant natural resources within its border and has the worlds greatest hydroelectric potential. This is due to the expansive Himalayan border and China’s dominion of much of the rivers conceived here.

They are largely self-sufficient and despite terrible pollution seemingly have the room and capacity for plenty more. The best of China’s geography is in the combination of its central position within Asia, its natural borders to the north and south fending off potential threats, and its ‘steppe’ or flatlands that run west all the way into Europe. These flatlands combined with a 14,000km coastline make for a traders heaven. And too no-ones surprise that has also been China’s history. They are a trading nation for reasons part cultural but mostly geographic.

The Bad

Such is the case with economic superpowers, there is far less bad about their geography than there is good. Geography is one of the most important factors in the creation of an economy. But contrary to the geographic determinists, certainly not everything.

What China’s geography has working against it is more a matter of geopolitics than the lay of the land. For China to ship its goods east over the seas and oceans it must bypass a connection of islands who all think China is just about the most threatening thing they’ve ever come across. Stand on the eastern border of China and look out towards the USA. In front of you is Japan, The Philipines, Taiwan and some Indonesia. These islands can be enormous hindrances to China’s supremacy goals going forward as contention for land in the South China sea grows.

This risky nervousness that characterises China’s trade eastward via the oceans has been precisely the motivation for China’s enormous efforts in developing the West. The Chinese Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is China’s answer to uncertainty in the East. There is more on this in the geopolitics section, but in short, China is buying (forcing more or less) everyone eastward from the Stans through the middle east into this project through a combination of debt-trap diplomacy and political pressure in an effort to have complete ownership over a non-ocean shipping lane.

What Does China’s Geography Say About Their Bid To Be The Next Superpower?

China has some of the greatest access in the world natural resources and borders weaker nations that would sooner ally with China than defy it.

The question of whether China’s geography plays a hand in their bid at becoming the worlds next definitive superpower is going to hinge on their ability to maintain dominance in the Himalayas, maintain allies in the West and convert into allies their enemies in the Eastern South China Sea. Allies come in different shapes and sizes. China does need to win over people ideologically, they can achieve the same outcome through favourable trade at the end of the day.

As we have mentioned China does have a slowing growth rate, but as we have also mentioned the entire, bloated population is crammed into just a slice of the land. Chinese population growth has to include an extension of their physical dominion. A push further through Manchuria into Russia makes the most sense as of now but it is also clear in the Western frontier that attempts to win more and more supremacy in this region are necessary too.

China’s Military

China has the largest military in the world by headcount. The United States, interestingly enough, don’t even rank second in this metric. That honour goes to India who, concerningly, strike ambiguity to the question of friends and enemies. They certainly have close ties to China but it is not entirely clear how they would react should pressure be applied.

This is interesting because should India and China be allies in war… they have a devastatingly large force, significantly more than the next few largest militaries under them.

military head count

More Than Men, A Military Make.

The United States is still the unquestionable military power in the world. They control the seas and distribute the arms. More on arms in the next segment, but for now what is the significance of the current state of US might?

Despite China’s superior man count, warring conflicts have moved beyond the simple man v man confrontations of battles past. Since WWII, a conflict’s outcome has been steadily moving further and further towards technological exploits. Drones. Planes. Targeted technology. Better guns, better armour. The rest. We have moved to a point where one B-52 might be worth 100 men, and as such, the dick measuring that goes on between forces of the world goes well beyond size.

The US Military Conundrum

Given the complexity of peacetime policy and domestic politics, the US, year on year are spending less and less on their military. Now, I personally do find it a bit ridiculous that as much as 50% of the worlds biggest budget in the world goes towards the military, but let us take a moment to appreciate and sympathise with the problem.

The US, out of a combination of personal and global interests have their paws spread to seemingly every significant touchpoint of the world. Each ally has a base. The US orienteer peacekeeping missions, the outcomes of which bare little fruit to the US agenda. But as the self-appointed leader of the ‘free world’ (eyes rolling) there is much inefficiency to the US military which the US budget is responsible for. Now, I am of the unpopular opinion that we should not always strive for efficiency, perhaps a little inefficiency here and there is a good thing, but such is the complex dynamic of the US military.

They are year on year spending less on their military and meanwhile, their necessity in the world is arguably becoming more and more expensive.

The US-China Military Inflection Point

Year on year the US spends less and year on year the Chinese spend more. A race towards the Thucydides Trap.

This is very difficult to quantify, and I could not find evidence online to support my theory here, but nonetheless. If China’s stayed hand is currently from fear of US domination, then how will the interplay change when this is no longer the case?

If the US spend less every year and China spend more on bolstering the capabilities of ones military, then in my unqualified estimation this inevitably leads to an inflection point where China military strength overcomes the US.

The US needs to keep spending filthy amounts of money on its military, this is the most tangible measure of power that stays in nefarious hands. Other solutions? Yes, perhaps. But that is not for here.

A Fascinating Look Into The Flow Of Arms

Who makes the military arms? The US.

Will China Be The Next Super Power?

And as consequence, who then sells the most arms? The US.

Will China Be The Next Super Power?

An interesting stat that was omitted from this page was who exactly each country sells to. I wanted to know this more in-depth because such is the nature of arms dealing, actions speak louder than words. Who and what flows where?

But…. and most interesting as well. Who buys the most arms. This one might surprise you.

Will China Be The Next Super Power?

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it is in fact Saudi Arabia that are importing the most arms. A US ally.

It’s A Fight For The Oceans, Or In This Case… The Seas

China’s most pronounced threat of invasion is not, as you might expect, via the northern Russian route through Manchuria, but in fact in the East via the sea. We have covered the islands of neighbouring allies China are met with at eye level, as you cast your lens East.

China’s naval capacity

The Geopolitics Of China

China has more or less completely fumbled whatever goodwill they had in the soft power department.

If you had polled the average American, average Australian or even average European back in 2010 you were likely going to hear about China as this amazing place where cheap things are produced and people are lifted from poverty. There was no talk of Taiwan, aggression, censorship, genocide, communism or pretty much any of the hot talking points of 2021. Sure – the people in Taiwan and Mongolia (nations with or on the line) knew and spoke about the threat of China, but this was internal. Outside of that, we just understood China as this place that just was perhaps not very fair to the Tibetans. But the average person polled knew nothing about Tibet, so their care unfortunately never converted into a correlation with an authoritarian state.

The years since 2010 however, has completely shifted popular opinion. And no year was worse for Chinese big PR – public relations than was 2020.

We are now very aware, even if we cannot recall the specifics, of China as this part of the world which although are an incredible story of success, are not perhaps nearly as moral or virtuous as they’d have had us believe.

Scepticism and outright fear of this country have peaked at a memorable high. Xi Xing Ping and his power-till-death grip on almost 2 billion people is no longer trivial or amusing. There is a very real sense in 2021 that China is a bad actor and may in fact be self-interested to the point where nothing else matters.

As we teeter closer and closer to the Thucydides Trap expect everything said above and below to become only further scrutinised and questioned.

Soft Power

China has done a good job at ostracizing itself in the last couple of years. Usually, on very cosy terms, even Australia has fallen out with the great nation, well documented here in my interview with Australian former ambassador to China, Geoff Raby.

A steadily increasing amount of ‘bad’ behaviour – both internally and externally – has caused the world’s opinion of China to become drastically altered.

So, Will China Take Over The World?

I don’t think so – but prediction is a fool’s game. My guess is as good as yours.

Tell me what you think – comment @ me on Twitter & SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER!!! (NEXT PARAGRAPH) – Also, listen to the Geopolitics & Power Podcast which has been sprinkled throughout this article.

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References

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China_(1976%E2%80%931989)
  • Wealth Of Nations – James Robinson
  • Prisoners Of Geography – Tim Marshall
  • https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under-occupied_developments_in_China
  • https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/eu-surveillance-sales-china-human-rights-abusers/
  • https://www.scmp.com/business/article/1934779/china-never-really-stopped-being-copycat-and-thats-why-its-tech-companies
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_sex_ratio
  • https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/011216/4-global-economic-issues-aging-population.asp
  • https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/china-new-silk-road-explainer/
  • https://theconversation.com/explainer-who-are-the-uyghurs-and-why-is-the-chinese-government-detaining-them-111843
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_China#Geology_and_natural_resources
  • https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/china/#geography
  • https://www.statista.com/statistics/264443/the-worlds-largest-armies-based-on-active-force-level/
  • https://www.eria.org/news-and-views/thailand-in-the-eye-of-the-coming-storm/
  • https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/sea-power-us-navy-and-foreign-policy
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_industry
  • https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/08/politics/us-military-weapons-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_International_Peace_Research_Institute
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uyghur_genocide
    https://chinapower.csis.org/education-in-china/
    https://markets.businessinsider.com/currencies/news/peter-thiel-criticizes-apple-google-warns-tiktok-bitcoin-china-threat-2021-4-1030288917
    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/07/asia/china-elderly-people-new-year-intl/index.html
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/01/inner-mongolia-protests-china-mandarin-schools-language

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