As we stand today, the size of the world GDP is estimated to be $70 trillion and the global population has registered to the level of 6.8 billion. However, the dispersion of income and power play amongst nations is clearly unbalanced. Today, USA is supposed to be the only superpower in the world, but that title is fast fading amidst rising Asian forces from China and India. In terms of population, the world has been exploding at an exponential pace. With the global population crossing the 6 bn. mark in the year 2000, things started changing rapidly. Now, China and India jointly comprising around 37% of the global population and the power balance is shifting.
We live in the information age today, where knowledge truly is power and economic prowess of a nation only can lead it forward in the global superpower race. There is no denying to the fact that USA would have a difficult time retaining its unipolar strength in these changing dynamics.
In order to gauge any country’s economic power and relative strength, we have to consider the following criteria in mind, amongst other things:
- Technological Edge
- Geographical Advantage
- Access to Water
- Access to Energy Sources
- Supply of Food Channels
- Economy’s fundamentals
USA versus China:
It might not be the biggest land area covering country on the face of earth, but USA is a huge economic force with its GDP standing at $14.26 trillion (20% of the global GDP), the country is ahead on the technology curve and thrives on innovation spearheaded by entrepreneurial activity spread all over and the country focusing its efforts on high-end value-added service sector accounting for about 77% of its GDP.
Geographically, USA has clear advantages over other upcoming superpowers. It is practically sharing borders with only two countries: Canada on the northern end and Mexico on the Southern end. Additionally, one very important point is clear in the picture below that USA has access to water from two of the largest oceans in the world, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and it also reaches the Gulf of Mexico on the south-eastern end.
Although 71% of earth is practically water, the geopolitical climate of the world dictates that water would be a major reason for clashes in the next big World War. Here, USA clearly has edge over its chief rivals in the power game.
The off-shore oil exploration seems to be more practical again in USA’s case due to access to various oceans. At this point, it is noticeable that the per capita consumptions of oil in USA compared to China are huge. According to Nationmaster.com, USA consumed 68.672 bbl/day of oil per 1000 people whereas the consumption of oil in China stood at only 5.733 bbl/day per 1000 people (2007 data). This is definitely going to change with China working out as the ‘Global Factory’ for all the top companies all over the world. Moreover, with the increasing level of urbanization and increasing income levels in Asian countries, the per capita energy consumption is bound to shoot up.
China has a very different geography to deal with, having 14 nations bordering the country, it needs to diplomatically champion its ties with them in such a way so as to assure not only geographic security, but also economic prosperity. China borders with Afghanistan(76 km), Bhutan (470 km), Burma (2,185 km), India (3,380 km), Kazakhstan (1,533 km), North Korea (1,416 km), Kyrgyzstan (858 km), Laos (423 km), Mongolia (4,677 km), Nepal (1,236 km), Pakistan (523 km), Russia (northeast) (3,605 km), Russia (northwest) (40 km), Tajikistan (414 km) and Vietnam (1,281 km).
Due to its geographic position, China’s sea routes pass several different countries coming from the Arabian Sea on the west, and this wet bulk (Crude oil) transportation is especially risk-prone considering any unstable conditions in the region. It, therefore, makes perfect economic sense for China to help Pakistan develop Gwadar Port and adjoining infrastructure in the Baluchistan province so that the trade route for China becomes more manageable.
Also, the reason for China’s keen interest in the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and other oil/gas exploration and transportation projects in and through the Central Asian countries is the importance of these to China’s geo-strategic success. As the country grows further, so will its energy demands and consequently, it would need to focus on developing sustainable solutions for energy issues through the Central Asian Republic countries and other countries on its western border.
To sum up, China is an evolving power center; it has to develop and crystallize a range of strategies for geo-political security amongst other developments. So far it has been doing a good job in making sure that its long-term sustenance is not sabotaged by geographic challenges. It has to work on many different projects to achieve the status of a super power in this unipolar world.
Courtesy for data and graphs is CIA The World Factbook and World Consumption & Production data is taken from US Energy Information Administration Website.