Think Again: Asia's Rise

"Don’t believe the hype about the decline of America and the dawn of a new Asian age. It will be many decades before China, India, and the rest of the region take over the world, if they ever do.
Asia is nowhere near closing its economic and military gap with the West. The region produces roughly 30 percent of global economic output, but because of its huge population, its per capita gdp is only $5,800, compared with $48,000 in the United States. Asian countries are furiously upgrading their militaries, but their combined military spending in 2008 was still only a third that of the United States. Even at current torrid rates of growth, it will take the average Asian 77 years to reach the income of the average American. The Chinese need 47 years. For Indians, the figure is 123 years. And Asia’s combined military budget won’t equal that of the United States for 72 years.

In any case, it is meaningless to talk about Asia as a single entity of power, now or in the future. Far more likely is that the fast ascent of one regional player will be greeted with alarm by its closest neighbors. Asian history is replete with examples of competition for power and even military conflict among its big players. China and Japan have fought repeatedly over Korea; the Soviet Union teamed up with India and Vietnam to check China, while China supported Pakistan to counterbalance India. Already, China’s recent rise has pushed Japan and India closer together. If Asia is becoming the world’s center of geopolitical gravity, it’s a murky middle indeed.

Those who think Asia’s gains in hard power will inevitably lead to its geopolitical dominance might also want to look at another crucial ingredient of clout: ideas. Pax Americana was made possible not only by the overwhelming economic and military might of the United States but also by a set of visionary ideas: free trade, Wilsonian liberalism, and multilateral institutions."

Historical prediction is such a wonderfully exact science with a fabulous record for precision of its forecasts, isn’t it?

I do have to admit that I still tend to go with the idea that the one thing one can say with some certainty is that the future is likely, well possibly, going to be a bit/somewhat/quite a bit different from now - or not.

China is said to be “poised to have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than any other country.” The study projects that by 2025, China will have the world’s second-largest economy, behind the United States’, and it “will be a leading military power.”

Huh kind of contradictory, but you know its only the National Intelligence Council.

I don’t think its contradictory. Rather it acknowledges that China will be the number two power, economically and militarily. This doesn’t contradict that the US will be the number one power, economically and militarily.

The point of considering Asia as a single power is a straw man argument, so I think the article in the first post can be discounted. But what you mention doesn’t contradict it.

But there is still Russia to consider, they still have the largest mineral wealth on earth and who knows what that’s going to be worth in 15 years and for all we know the EU could surpass the US economically and militarily.

"Over the past ten years, under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, Russia has become more nationalistic, corrupt and corporatist. Its economy, although much bigger than a decade ago, is even more dependent on oil and gas, an industry now controlled by a small group of kleptocratic courtiers and former spies. The decision by Ikea, a well-known Swedish furniture supplier once bullish about Russia, to suspend investment because of graft is an indictment of the dire commercial climate. Its non-energy exports are smaller than Sweden’s.

Russia’s population is shrinking alarmingly, its death rate double that in most developed countries. Conflicts in its north Caucasus republics have flared again. Its armed forces are woefully ill-equipped and poorly trained. Mr Putin has kept control by unleashing a virulent brand of anti-Western “patriotism”—the latest textbooks are as tough on America as they are soft on Stalin—and thuggishly silencing the opposition. Last year in a pretence of democracy Mr Putin installed Dmitry Medvedev (Mr Obama’s supposed host) as president while he himself became prime minister."

At the turn of the last century, I’m sure there are those who would doubt Russia and the US would become dominate powers later on in the century. There may have been signs, but there is a big jump between having the capacity to do so, and doing it.

India and China have the capacity to take a dominate position, but there are going to many challenges. Both will probably continue to have lots of boom and busts. I think China has its own banking problems. The central government’s hope to maintain optimal employment, might come at the cost of bad investments. If it can absorb the bad investments it’ll be fine, if it cannot it may go through a depression.

If it really wants dominance its going to have to transition between being an exporter to increasing their imports of things other than raw commodities. That way they can tie other countries to it. That is going to take quite a transition.

I do think though that free trade, Wilsonian liberalism, and multilateral institutions that we may envision a dominate power having to have, does not necessary to have global dominance. Granted there may be a need for some of the aspects of them, but they can always find alternative pathways. Thinking that a global dominating power must be like the West could be a too Western-centric. Although any alternative would have to develop ways of managing relations as a dominate power.

It does not mean it will be a dominate power. It may have a large military and a large economy, but it may not be able to overcome internal problems.

From Democracy in America written by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville in 1840!

“There are at the present time two great nations in the world, which started from different points, but seem to tend towards the same end. I allude to the Russians and the Americans. Both of them have grown up unnoticed; and while the attention of mankind was directed elsewhere, they have suddenly placed themselves in the front rank among the nations, and the world learned their existence and their greatness at the same time.
All the other nations seem to have nearly reached their natural limits, and they have only to maintain their power; but these are still in the act of growth. All the others have stopped or continue with extreme difficulty; these alone are proceeding with ease and celerity along a path to which no limit can be perceived. The American struggles against the obstacles that nature opposes to him; the adversaries of the Russian are men. The former combats the wilderness and savage life; the latter, civilization with all its arms. The conquests of the American are therefore gained by the plowshare; those of the Russian by the sword. The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest to accomplish his ends and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of the people; the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm. The principal instrument of the former is freedom; of the latter, servitude. Their starting-point is different and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.”

Tocqueville was perhaps the greatest philosopher on American democracy. I quote him not because one can predict humanity’s future or can ascribe “scientific laws” to history as the Marxist does but merely to show that one can perhaps surmise with reason how things Might unfold. When Francis Fukuyama published his End of History manifesto in 1990 on how the world had reached its political zenith in liberal democracy, I kind of laughed because the study of humanity teaches that one cannot apply deterministic concepts to human endeavors. Fukuyama was wrong.

I do recall the great debate between Joseph Nye, on how there were no bounds to American leadership of the world as long as the will was there, and Paul Kennedy of Harvard who argued in his The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers that America was on the decline and the “Soviet Union” perhaps rising. Both seem wrong now in retrospect.

However, I do recall the great fear in the early 1990s in America about how Japan would shortly overtake America as the world’s premier economic power. Twas not to be, though the trends showed that.

I posted the original article strictly for talking points. The one thing not mentioned in the original article and which I do not know enough about is demographics and sociology. China, in enforcing the one-child policy for families with penalties, has led its population to abort unwanted children, and I have read that most Chinese families will abort a female baby preferring a male if they are to only have one child. Apparently, in India too, there is a predisposition towards male children and aborting females if need be. I wonder how much of this is true and what a society 20 years from now will be like sociologically if the ratio of male to female let’s say is 2:1. I wonder if this is a real possibility in the future?

sure but did that stop Hitler from taking Czechoslovakia, or from attacking Russia, or setting up the death camps? most people in Germany didn’t want the war but didn’t want the gestapo at there door, do you think its any different in china?

do they have to be the dominant power to kill America? America had a hard enough time competing with the Russians but do you think there willing to commit to competing with the Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Indians?

A minor quibble. I think the world, by and large, knew it. Russia had, earlier on in the century, spanked the then largest and best-led army in the world (French) into a disasterous winter retreat and chased it all the way to France. Russian soldiers marched in the streets of Paris.

Many, many foreign military observers were present with the armies of the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War. At the time, either of those armies would have been the largest and best-equipped in the world. Combined, they would have left no doubt in foreign military minds that, if reunited, the U.S. could not successfully be attacked by any power or likely combination of powers. Theodore Roosevelt, with his “Great White Fleet” tour, demonstrated to the world that the U.S. had attained the capability of projecting its power, not merely deterring any attack.

I was not proposing that China couldn’t become a complete global dominate power, I was proposing that it is not a foregone conclusion they will become a global dominate power. Nor was I proposing that they would not maintain a powerful spot in the world arena. They will still be looking to bring in raw materials from elsewhere. If anything I am sure they would stay regionally dominate in East and South East Asia.

The difference between say a Germany and China and concern for internal problems is that China has over a billion people. Its also going to have major economic differences within the country. Also China is culturally very authoritarian. Those in power are not going to be very comfortable with things it considers disunifiying forces, along the lines as if we thought Church and State were going to unite with each other, many in the West would not be comfortable with it. In China there could be problems with those in the rural areas if they start protesting the conditions there. This could be liable to happen if fiscal problems happen that lead to increases in unemployment. Also there is a movement for the young in the city to Westernize. They may not care very much for the governmental authority. This could cause great concern too. Eventually forces such as these may force the government to turn more concern inward than outward. It is always going to be worried that the powerful state it is amassing is going to be posed for a break up like many times before in its history. On the other hand it could always manage the transition well enough, that it can mitigate the problems. Then it can focus more on the external than the internal.

Also I don’t think China needs to “kill off” the US to become dominate. Granted I’m sure there will be power gambits played, but in the perspective of decades it is going to be more of a matter of the fundamentals of each country. Everyone has a looming demographic problem. One needs to be able to manage the greying of the population, one needs to be able to manage proper population growth with respect to the greying problem. One is going to need to be able to manage social programs. Programs today can balloon to big liablities tomarrow. One is going to have to manage building up trading and stratgic alliances without alienating the other countries. With respect to the military, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. If a country is not smart with how it has and uses its military, it can end up taking both itself and the protagonist country down with it. I would say that WWII cost Europe world standing.

The problem though with trying to extrapolate the capacity of the US’s ability to maintain an military on par with what it had in the civil war has its difficulties. At the time the US tended to not want large free standing armies in peaceful times, and tended to want to be isolationist. Yes it did end up wanting its own bit of an empire, although I think the US was especially more concerned with having its regional dominance. I don’t know if the US would have taking the same position of global dominance if it was not for the World Wars. Due to its situation with respect to placement on the Earth and its mineral wealth, I think though it would still be a power.

I wouldn’t disagree with anything you said above. What I meant to communicate was that in the case of both Russia and the U.S., turn-of-the-century powers could not have failed to believe both had immense inherent capacity, if put to it, or if either decided to go on global adventures.

All it took to make the Brits and French sweat was for the Kaiser to sail on the “Panther” (I hope I got the name right) and show up at Agadir. How much more impressive would Roosevelt’s fleet tour have been? Granted, the Kaiser was regarded as highly aggressive; Morocco was in the neighborhood of their interests, and the U.S. was regarded as largely isolationist but sometimes pushy. Still the capacity of the U.S. could not have been lost on other powers.

After WW I, the U.S. did return to an isolationist posture. So it could be said that the U.S. was in no way “globally dominant” between the wars. After WW II, of course, all of the remaining industrialized world was prostrate. In a sense, the U.S. was, in the immediate postwar era, the “last man standing”. The Soviet Union was weaker than we perceived it to be, but atomic weapons allowed it to “catch up” in a dramatic way.

Had WW II not occurred, it may only be guessed whether, e.g., Japan would have been tied down in a very tedious war in China for perhaps decades, or whether Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union would have stalled short of the Urals no matter what. But there was the possibility that both could have prevailed and enlisted the resources of those places and become much more serious threats.

As a possibly interesting aside, I happened once to meet an aged former member of the Kwantung Army, and had the pleasure of discussing the China campaign with him. Histories one normally reads give the impression that Japan went through China like a bullet through wet tissue paper. But the reality was that it was an extremely difficult slog for Japan, virtually from the beginning. He related how absolutely everything was in short supply; the Chinese armies they met were extremely dogged, and conditions were absolutely horrible for the Japanese units. He told me their units would be near the end of their fighting capability. Then, after very inadequate rests and refits, would be sent out yet again into a hinterland whose resources could not support them, and where partisans and Chinese armies were everywhere. He confirmed my belief that the Emperor and his close partisans had their hand in it from the beginning, and determined everything. He considered the army leaders, who took the blame, to be functionaries. Important decisions were communicated by princes and others having close connection to the Emperor, who would fly in for the purpose. Their officers were very obsequious to those royal messengers. He, and (he said) most of his fellows always felt the Emperor was the true war criminal, and he never changed his mind about that. He and many Japanese were astounded that MacArthur did not put Hirohito and the princes of the blood on trial; not just because they lost, but because they were the most guilty of all. But, like good Japanese, they kept their mouths shut about it.

Hate to follow myself, but I neglected to say this.

I read an interesting article in which the writer maintained that there are really two Chinas. One is just as fly-blown, primitive and destitute as always, and constitutes most of the country. The Pacific coastal area, on the other hand, is where most of the development is taking place and is, in his view, simply an “extension” of the U.S.’ West Coast; in effect an industrial subsidiary.

If so, one may reasonably question the “China miracle”.

The whole framework of the OP is wrong-headed.

BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China. These and other nations have formed an alliance of sorts. I believe BRIC already surpasses U.S. GNP and may soon surpass combined U.S. and Euro-zone GNP.

We are in an increasingly post-racial world. So “Asia’s Rise” is just missing the point. BRIC is rising.

Alliances overlap. Japan is not part of BRIC but Japan and China are in a different partially overlapping alliance. The world is more complex than a game of Risk. Thankfully, the present American leadership well understands this. The geopolitical acumen of our President is unmatched. The country of our founding fathers is in good hands.

I would certainly hope the administration knows the world is more complex than a game of Risk. But that does not support your conclusion that the geopolitical acumen of President Obama is unmatched. My ten year old grandson knows that. Perhaps you based it on something else, and thought the premises were obvious.

But they’re not obvious to those of us with ordinary souces of information. We saw the EU reject Obama’s stimulus urgings. We saw China and India rebuff all attempts to impose CO2 reductions on them. The North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs proceed apace. We see China make rumblings about no longer supporting the dollar or buying our debt, and calling American administration officials to China for what seems like a spanking. We see Russia trying (unsuccessfully so far) to cause the world to abandon the dollar as the reserve currency. The Russians are still in Georgia. China is cracking down in Xinkiang, as it is periodically wont to do. The Taliban are resurgent despite the recent “surge”.

So, there must be something else. Something truly demonstrative and dramatic. No? :slight_smile:

What is wrong-headed about the OP? The idea that China may not be the next inevitable global power, I don’t think is wrong headed. Including India in with China, they both have promising potential, but there are possible crippling problems (with respect to global dominance, not exactly with respect to be a major hegemonic regional power) that could hinder the transition to that status.

BRIC may have formed an alliance, but I’m sure it is a bit like herding cats. Each nation is going to have its own interests. None of those nations really have any real natural cultural ties. When it comes to deciding who is going to have control over which mineral and oil resources, the alliance could easily be undermined. I would suppose the only thing that would make them an alliance would be that they are emerging as major economies and are not the US or Western Europe.

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