China's superpower economy

Despite breathless media reports about the World Bank revising downward its estimate for the size of China's economy, what the figures really show is that China has indeed overtaken the United States in manufacturing output. As an industrial giant, China needs to be taken seriously as an international economic force and a strategic and military power, says John J. Tkacik Jr., a senior research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation.

China's new status is not surprising:

  • China has been the world's leading producer of steel, copper, aluminum, cement, and coal for several years.

  • As a consumer, China surpassed Japan as the globe's second largest importer of petroleum in 2005.

  • In 2006, China surpassed Japan as the world's No. 2 auto market, with total sales of 7.2 million vehicles and production of 7.3 million.

  • In 2007, China also became the world's top producer of merchant ships.

    Now that China's manufacturing sector has nosed past the United States, America's political leaders must begin to contemplate what China's economy will look like in another five years, says Tkacik. It will likely be half-again bigger than America's industrial sector, giving China the capacity to assemble the building blocks of a military superpower.

    China's boom is not necessarily bad news for the United States. But it means that Washington can no longer condescend to China as a "developing" nation in need of U.S. tax dollars for programmes relating to energy, environment, and the like. China has ample money and resources to pay for these programmes by itself. It also has the potential to build a superpower military. The Central Intelligence Agency suggests that China spends 3.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on arms. Therein lies the real downside of China's economic boom, says Tkacik.

    Source: John J. Tkacik Jr., "China's Superpower Economy," Heritage Foundation, WebMemo No. 1762, December 28, 2007.

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