Introduction to translation

Michael Buckley, associate professor of political science at Tufts University, and Hal Brands, Henry Kissinger Professor of Public Affairs at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, prepared an analysis published by Foreign Affairs on Chinese power. Which has achieved an astonishing rise during the past decades, and they discuss the possibility of the decline of the star of China in the coming years, reviewing the evidence on this, and how the world is preparing for such a moment.

translation text

There is an overwhelming consensus today that China is about to overtake the United States, and there is plenty of evidence to support this view. China's GDP has increased 40-fold since 1978, while China ranks at the top of the world in terms of cash reserves, trade surplus, economy measured by purchasing power parity, and navy as measured by number of ships. While the United States is picking up the tails of its disappointment out of Afghanistan, China is rushing with force to inaugurate a system based on it in Asia, and to replace Washington at the top of the world.

But China appears to be in a hurry, because its star is in fact on the brink of waning.

The winds were favorable for the rise of China for decades, but now these winds have been reversed in what China does not desire, as the Chinese government hides a serious economic recession, and slips back to a fragile totalitarian regime, in addition to the severe scarcity of resources, and the decline it faces in population, the worst demographic decline of its kind in history (in times of peace).

And last, but not least, China today is gradually losing its links with the world that once welcomed it and enabled it to progress.

Welcome to the age of “peak China,” when Beijing is a power seeking to reshape the established order and reshape the world, while its time to do so is already running out.

Chinese miracle industry

Poverty and hunger ravaged isolated and besieged China, but the opening to the United States in 1971 broke this pattern, and China suddenly had an ally of the great powers.

China has been going through an ascending journey for many years, until many observers believe that its place at the top is inevitable. But in fact, the peace and prosperity of recent decades in China is a historical exception. For most of its modern history, China has been destined for conflict and adversity because of its critical location at the boundary between Eurasia and the Pacific, as imperialist powers cut the country apart from the First Opium War of 1839 until the end of the Chinese Civil War. After the unification of China under communist rule in 1949, the country faced fierce American hostility, so Beijing suffered from the rivalry with the two largest world powers together (Washington and Moscow), after the collapse of the Sino-Soviet alliance in the 1960s.

Poverty and hunger ravaged isolated and besieged China, but the opening to the United States in 1971 broke this pattern, so China suddenly had an ally of the great powers, and Washington warned Moscow against attacking China, as it accelerated Beijing's integration with the rest of the world. By the mid-1970s, China had become a safe country, with access to foreign markets and capital, and all at perfect timing. World trade rose sixfold between 1970-2007, and China rode the wave of globalization to become the factory of the world.

China did this because its government was highly committed to reform. After Mao Zedong's death in 1976, the Chinese Communist Party legislated presidential term limits with other controls on top state leaders, and then began rewarding good economic performance and technocratic efficiency. Rural communities were allowed to set up companies that were lenient in regulation, and special economic zones were expanded throughout the country; What allowed foreign companies to operate freely. As part of its preparations to join the World Trade Organization in 2001; China adopted a suite of modern legal and tax systems, and so Beijing secured the policy package needed to thrive in an open world.

China also had a favorable demographics, having seen the greatest demographics in modern history. In the first decade of this century, the number of adults of working age reached ten times that of older citizens, while the average is nearly five times in most of the world's major economies. This demographic advantage arose as a by-product of reckless policy fluctuations. The Chinese Communist Party urged women to have more children in the 1950s and 1960s; To boost the number of people exhausted by wars and famines, the population increased by 80% in 30 years. But Beijing tightened its belt in the 1970s, limiting childbearing to one child per family. As a result, China had a huge workforce with relatively small numbers of elderly and children in need of care. No demographic qualified as productive as the Chinese nation at that moment.

China did not need much outside help to provide its citizens with food and water, or supply its industries with most of the raw materials needed, and factors such as easy access to these resources, as well as cheap labor and weak environmental protection policies, made China a huge center of industry.

But those gifts of fate are short-lived. Over the past decade, the advantages that once spurred a country's rise have become the same obligations that pull it down.

Get off the top

First of all, China is running out of resources, half of its rivers have disappeared, and pollution has rendered 60% of its groundwater “unfit for human consumption,” as the government itself admits.

In addition, the country is witnessing a deterioration in food security after 40% of its agricultural land was destroyed due to over-use, and is today the largest importer of agricultural products in the world.

Partly as a result of the scarcity of resources, the cost of growth has skyrocketed, and China has to invest three times the capital it previously invested to create growth similar to what it achieved at the beginning of this century.

China will lose an additional 105 million workers between 2035 and 2050, and the number of elderly people will simultaneously increase by another 64 million.

The economic consequences will be dire.

Moreover, China's demographics are on the cusp of deflation, thanks to the legacy of the one-child policy. China will lose up to 70 million adults of working age between 2020-2035, and will simultaneously have an elderly population of about 130 million elderly citizens. This corresponds to the loss of workers and taxpayers whose numbers are equal to the French people, with the increase of pensioners and pensioners whose numbers are equal to the Japanese people. Then China will lose an additional 105 million workers between 2035-2050, and the number of elderly will simultaneously increase by another 64 million. The economic consequences will be dire, and current statistics suggest that the government's "age spending" rate should triple by 2050, from 10% to 30% of GDP. It should be noted here that the total expenditure of the entire Chinese government today is 30% of the value of GDP.

Dealing with these problems will be difficult, because China is ruled by a unilateral authoritarian regime that sacrifices economic efficiency in favor of political power. Although private companies generate most of the country's wealth, they were deprived of capital under President Xi Jinping. Instead, less efficient SOEs receive 80% of government subsidies and loans. China's economic boom has been spearheaded by local pioneers and their companies, but Xi's anti-corruption drive has deterred them from re-entering experimentation. The government has effectively banned negative economic news, making vital reforms nearly impossible, while innovation has been crushed by a wave of politically motivated laws.

In conjunction with China's transformation into a more assertive and authoritarian state, the world is also becoming less conducive to Chinese growth, as Beijing has faced thousands of trade obstacles since the global financial crisis in 2008. Moreover, the world's major economies today isolate their communication networks from Chinese influence, as Australia seeks India, Japan, and others are pushing China away from their supply chains.

China's Great Recession

The Chinese Communist Party does not admit defeat, and Xi hopes to revive rapid growth through technological innovation.

China is currently facing two trends: stagnation of growth, and strategic encirclement, and they are writing the end of its rise. Due to the accumulated problems of the Chinese economy, it recently entered the longest slowdown in the post-Mao era, as the official GDP growth rate fell from 15% in 2007 to 6% in 2019, and then came the pandemic to drop growth to just over 2% in 2020. Productivity, a key component of the wealth industry, fell by 10% between 2010-2019, the worst productivity decline in a great power since the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Indications of this fruitless growth are visible in everything. China has more than 50 ghost towns, which are urban centers complete with roads and houses, but not inhabited by humans. About two-thirds of Chinese infrastructure projects will never compensate for their construction costs; This will result in out-of-control debt, and China's total debt has jumped eightfold between 2008-2019. We know the end of such stories: investment bubbles result in prolonged stagnation. In Japan, excessive lending resulted in three decades of near-zero growth, and in the United States caused the Great Recession (2007-2009, coinciding with the global financial crisis). Perhaps the problems facing the Chinese real estate developer "Evergrand" with huge debts serve as an indication of what is to come.

However, the Communist Party does not concede defeat, and Xi hopes to revive rapid growth through technological innovation, and R&D spending has already tripled since 2006. Despite these efforts, China's share of the world market in most high-tech industries remains insignificant.

The main reason for this is that the Chinese R&D system is governed from top to bottom and, while excellent at mobilizing resources, stifles the open flow of information and capital needed for sustainable innovation.

The problem will be exacerbated by the ongoing political repression that encourages conformity to one opinion.

Strategic encirclement

During its nearly 40-year rise, China has avoided strategic encirclement by underestimating its global ambitions and maintaining cordial relations with the United States. But this phase is over since Beijing has become more aggressive in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Over the past five years, the United States has abandoned constructive interaction and pursued a new policy of containment. Washington conducted its largest naval and missile expansion in 30 years, imposed the heaviest tariffs since World War II, and implemented the most severe restrictions it has known since the Cold War on foreign investment, all measures directed against Beijing. This year, the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister complained of a "government and popular campaign aimed at bringing China to its knees."

The shift in the US attitude toward China in favor of the growing reaction on a larger scale against Beijing's power.

In Northeast Asia, Taiwan is more determined than ever to protect its de facto independence, the Taiwanese government has agreed to a new resolute defense strategy that can make the island almost impervious to invasion, and Japan has agreed to cooperate closely with the United States to stave off any Chinese aggression in the region. .

The South China Sea countries also began to hedge against China.

Vietnam acquired mobile coastal missiles, Russian attack submarines, new combat aircraft, and ships armed with advanced cruise missiles, Singapore quietly became an important partner of the United States, and Indonesia increased its defense spending by 20% in 2020, and another 21% in 2021 Even the Philippines, which courted China for most of Rodrigo Duterte's presidency, is now reasserting its rights in the South China Sea and intensifying its air and sea patrols.

Wherever Beijing presses, it finds counterpressure from a growing team of adversaries.

The Quadripartite Security Dialogue - comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the United States - has emerged as a hub for anti-China cooperation among the most powerful democracies in the Indo-Pacific region, and the emerging OCOs (Australia-Britain-America) alliance united the most prominent powers of the English-speaking world against Beijing.

Certainly, the anti-Chinese cooperation is still being implemented and its features have not yet crystallized, because many countries are still dependent on trade with Beijing, but these intertwined partnerships may eventually be a sword hanging on China's neck.

When the climb ends

China is a power that has already completed its rise, not a rising one. It has acquired enormous geopolitical potential, but its best days are already over. This distinction is important here, because China has planned to achieve ambitions that have no ceiling, and perhaps it will not be able to achieve them now without taking sharp behavior. The Communist Party aims to restore his country to Taiwan, extend its hegemony in the western Pacific, and spread its influence around the world, and Xi declared that China seeks "a future in which it will seize the initiative and assume a dominant position." However, that dream has begun to fade, coinciding with the slowdown in growth and China's standing face to face with global powers that are more hostile to it.

Powers wishing to change the situation are often more dangerous when the gap between their ambitions and their capabilities becomes too wide to bridge. And when the strategic window of that disaffected force begins to close on the status quo, it appears to it that it is less likely to gain victory than a humiliating fall. Germany launched World War I to prevent its hegemonic ambitions from being crushed by the Anglo-Russian-French coalition, and Japan launched World War II in Asia to prevent the United States from strangling its empire. Indeed, China today is already engaging in practices expected of a country in its position, relentlessly strengthening its military power and searching for spheres of influence in Asia and beyond.

Many observers believe that China is throwing its full weight today because it is fully confident in its continuing decline.

It seems undoubtedly that Xi believes that the COVID pandemic and political instability in the United States have created new possibilities for China to advance.

But the more likely - and even more frightening - possibility is that China's leaders are intent on moving quickly because time is not on their side.

What happens when a country, in its quest to rearrange the world, sees the possibility that it will not be able to do so peacefully?

The answer that history suggests to us, and China's current behavior: unfortunate things.


Translation: Hadeer Abdul Azim

This report is a translation of Foreign Affairs and does not necessarily reflect the website of Meydan.

Keywords: china, beijing, world, textthere, fact, united states, top, gdp., chinese communist party, henry kissinger, power, exception, world., economy, number