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The Extent to Which China or India Could Be the next Global Superpower

Updated on July 11, 2016

Both China and India could still be considered as emerging world players, but China is more likely to be categorised as a potential global superpower, since its economic reforms in 1978 have promoted a free market, attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and contributing to China having the only gross national product (GNP) larger than that of the USA, at around $17 trillion.

To become a superpower, a country requires cultural hegemony, a powerful military, a large land area for natural resources, a large population, and, most importantly, economic power, all of which are possessed by the USA – the only current superpower.

If China is to become a superpower, it will likely force a bi-polar world, together with the USA. Both China and India have the population required to challenge the USA, but China's income per capita is marginally ahead (85th versus 120th for India).

China has a growing middle class, and a one-party government system, meaning that the government is not accountable to the public, and can prioritise economic growth without the restriction of environmental protection or workers' rights; India's democratic government system could hold it back, but will ultimately prove to be more sustainable in the long-term.

A Chinese family with one child in Beijing, China.
A Chinese family with one child in Beijing, China. | Source

China's historic one-child policy has created a top-heavy population; its demographic dividend of the past 30 years will soon expire, and the ageing population will create a high dependency ratio, which could cause significant economic strain.

Over half of India's population refuses to use toilets, and 300 million people live in extreme poverty. Despite this, the high birth rate and rapidly growing manufacturing sector, which claims to focus on innovation as opposed to Chinese-style imitation, could help India to challenge the USA, or even China, for superpower status in the long-term.

One area in which India and China both lack global power is exporting culture; instead, India is flooded with American brands, such as Disney and Pizza Hut, whilst China's unique culture and the dominance of its state-owned companies has failed to have much of a global cultural impact, although it could be argued that both countries possess large enough populations to not need to export culture to the same extent as the USA.

India's military equipment is outdated, and the country relies on weapons imports from Russia. Whilst India's military is entirely inward-focused, positioned only on its borders, e.g. with Pakistan, China is beginning to develop a blue-water navy, and move away from its historical ideology of not intervening on international conflicts; for example, 4,000 Chinese troops are stationed in South Sudan, albeit through the United Nations, but this sign of increasing global influence is what makes China the more likely superpower candidate in the relatively short-term.

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    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 21 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Interesting article and it made me think of what my dad use to say or predict more likely during the seventies: "Watch out for the yellow race!" I never understood what he meant until now.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 22 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      I would not like living in a one party system. It is no surprise that China has the largest GNP. NAFTA should of never happened either.

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