After reading this you may want to sign up for Mandarin Chinese lessons.
[home]Political theorists are pointing to China as the next global superpower. But what exactly is a superpower, other than the fact that most of us accept the United States as being one? Students are still debating the topic, and if the U.S. should get ready to start seeing red.
A classic definition might be a country that trades with major nations and has increasing success. China has had the fastest increasing economy over the years. Their top trading partners include the United States, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
On Economy
“What [the Chinese] don’t have is a history of openness to the rest of the world, or our perception of economy,” international finance professor Kirt Butler said. “The Chinese are very cautious and are opening up a little bit at a time.”
International relations professor Simei Qing believes this is an issue across the continent. “Chinese economic rights cannot be separated from Asian economic rights,” International Relations professor Simei Qing said.
“The Chinese made its international entry through low labor cost,” Butler said. “Some of the wealth is being shared with the populace. Wages have increased, but eroded their cost advantage.”
Others feel that American trade with China is problematic and that the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which strengthens trade between Europe and America doesn’t benefit U.S. citizens. [red] “We have so much open trade with China that we’re not looking out for American goods,” MSU Republicans First Vice Chair Craig Burgers said. “TAFTA is great for corporations, but horrible for American workers.”
A second characteristic of a global superpower is that it is able to throw its weight around and have other countries listen. With North Korea increasing its nuclear weapon tests and building, China has been one of the major players in negotiations to end the building of nuclear weapons. The Chinese are also battling other world markets, since they don’t believe they are moving toward a completely free market fast enough.
On Weight
International relations and journalism junior Mariam Gillespie discussed similar ideas. “Based on what I’ve learned, China is definitely on its way to becoming a superpower because it’s so big in terms of politics,” she said. “It’s also becoming stronger and more forceful. I don’t think they bow down to the U.S. The U.S. is starting to recognize that China can’t be taken lightly.”
“China is already a superpower,” Butler said. “There is probably as much international trade as many countries.” China does have a bit of weight to throw around. The only countries stopping it from being the big kid on the bloc in the East are Japan and India, who are also industrial powerhouses. The Japanese economy may currently be slumped, but they still have their share of power. India is also rising in industrial strength.
But third, a global superpower – at least on the surface – seems to have citizens whom are well cared for. Over 1.3 billion people live on the mainland of China, so it is not shocking that there is a large number of poverty-stricken citizens.
On Well Being
“China is only on a basic need level,” said Chyi-Woei Wang, an education and interdisciplinary studies senior, referring to Maslow’s pyramid, which describes the needs of an individual.
However, many Americans are on “basic need level” and live below the poverty level. And in China, there is an ever-increasing concern of the imbalance in wealth between the cities and the countryside, since much of the economic richness of the country is based in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. The Chinese are trying to eradicate this by improving social programs that help people in the countryside. The U.S., in some cases, is turning to Chinese methods to deal with their own urban crowding. “Some cities in the U.S. are using Chinese methods of city planning to reform their own cities,” social relations sophomore Andy Evans said. “New York, for instance, is using the Chinese method for housing.” [sign]
So maybe we need a new definition for “superpower.” The dictionary defines a one as a powerful and influential nation, especially with nuclear capabilities that dominates its allies or client states in an international bloc.
On Who’s a Superpower
Wang does not define China as a superpower, using any definition. “It’s more like a developing country. Some consider it the new frontier.”
Microbiology junior Andy Ketner tried his hand at defining a superpower nation. “I think a country’s economics and technology play a big part, as well as developing and furthering disease prevention,” Ketner said. “Technology helps others or enforces negative views. Any power, like technological or arms, which gets you recognition from the world and the ability to provide aid to a crisis also defines a superpower.”
The debate doesn’t end there. “China is not a superpower,” interdisciplinary studies in humanities and history junior Crystal Micko said. “They could possibly become one depending on the stances they take on government policy.”
Steve Purchase, president of the MSU College Democrats said China is emerging as a bigger player. “If that forces the U.S. to take a hard look at ourselves and understand that we can’t treat the world as our own sandbox, then it should help us.”
Qing said China will definitely become a superpower if it does the right thing. “China could possibly face its greatest challenge and have two directions to choose from,” Qing said. “They can both use their power wisely and be willing to help other countries in the war on poverty or they can repeat fatal mistakes made by other Western powers and maximize their power. The Chinese path is still uncertain.”
On Influence
As China gains strength and pull throughout the world, it is possible other nations might adapt to some aspects of their culture. What would a Chinese-influenced America be like?
“It’s hard to figure, considering most Americans are in the dark about the Chinese, besides Chinese food restaurants,” political theory and constitutional democracy and journalism senior John Sturk said. “A Chinese-Western hybrid of press freedom would be mutated. It has the look of being free but will be really restricted.”
“If China were to become a powerhouse, I think their culture might diffuse around the world,” Gillespie said. “It’s got a little bit of a start already. I personally think they have an interesting culture.”
Others are already feeling an influence. “Chinese influence is happening every day,” Burgers said. “As China becomes a bigger player, we will learn more about China, whether we like it or not.”
But the sharing of cultures goes both ways. “China’s becoming more Western, though they aren’t willing to admit it,” Burgers said.
Purchase said there are “cultural differences” between the U.S. and China. “We need to not let these differences cloud our judgment,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of difficulty, especially on the U.S. side. We may start to see pressure from within China and the U.S. to address hard issues like fair labor practices and human rights.”
Qing said there may be noticeable changes in Chinese culture, but that they are limited. “There is always a movement for reform [in China], but there are those with old ideas,” Qing said. “China is not trying to replace the U.S. as world police.”

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