“In examining the factors that go towards the development of Chinese national power-and its ability to use it to achieve national objectives-predictions about a Chinese superpower with the ability to dominate Asia would be premature, if not improbable,” said Paul Dibb and John Lee, authors of the report published by Australian think tank Kokoda Foundation.
The argument that China is already Asia’s pre-eminent power based on its growing economic and military capacities is weak, the authors say. They expect the limitations of China’s economic might, a lack of close bilateral relationships and weak military capability to keep the country from becoming an advanced political-economy that wields influence in the region any time soon.
“China is a dominant power, but it’s not the dominant power in the region or the world. It’s got the economic hardware in place… as a collective country, there’s no denying that it’s an economic and military power,” said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank.
An unproductive economy
China’s gross domestic product growth rate of 7 percent may be a five-year low, but it’s still the envy of most countries. However, experts say declining productivity is one of biggest tell-tale signs that China cannot maintain its current pace of growth.
Furthermore, China will be unable to make the jump from middle-income to high-income status – a requirement for a dominant state- unless it improves the standard of living for citizens, the report added.
Doing so would require the allocation of more government funds to public goods such as social security and unemployment benefits, as well as healthcare, which only constitute 10.5 percent and 6.1 percent of the 2014 budget, respectively.
Exaggerated military power
The defence sector receives the lion’s share of government finances, nearly 15 percent of the 2014 budget, but Dibb and Lee believe China will not become a military superpower until it’s capable of taking decisive action on a global scale.
“Although China has developed potent military capabilities to make it hazardous for U.S. forces to operate in the approaches to China, the fact remains that Beijing could not enforce a full military blockade of Taiwan or attempt a full-scale amphibious invasion of that island,” they wrote.
As a result of territorial disputes with Japan and the majority of Southeast Asia, China has few friends in Asia. A report from the Pew Research Centre earlier this year showed respondents in five out of eight Asian countries had overwhelmingly unfavourable views of China.
This unpopularity undermines Beijing’s influence and capacity to wield power in the region, Dibb and Lee said.
Mizuho’s Varathan agreed. “China doesn’t have the charismatic soft power that Asia’s dominant power ought to have, it is still trying to gain friendships and investments in the region,” he said.
- Massive spending won’t make China’s Asia dream come true; money can’t buy respect (chinadailymail.com)
- In veiled message to China, Obama renews commitment to Asia-Pacific pivot (chinadailymail.com)
- New China urges increased hostility towards the west (chinadailymail.com)
- China makes public its dream for Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere (chinadailymail.com)
- Why are China and East Asia unable to capitalise on their successes? (chinadailymail.com)
- Asia-Pacific leaders endorse work toward China-backed trade deal (theglobeandmail.com)
- China Pledges $40bn For New Silk Road (tarnews.co.za)
- Putin says China, Russia to settle more trade in yuan (dailymail.co.uk)
- Xi offers China-driven ‘Asia-Pacific dream’ (manilatimes.net)