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Why China Will be Number One

Updated on December 3, 2011
"Bullet train" arrives at Wuhan Station
"Bullet train" arrives at Wuhan Station
Rongcheng Wind Farm
Rongcheng Wind Farm
Students obtain information from Canadian university recruiter
Students obtain information from Canadian university recruiter

Forget the pundits. Forget the intellectuals. Forget the economists. China will eventually be number one. History has shown us that empires rise and fall. From my layman’s point of view, the United States’ day in the sun is coming to an end. Protectionism, greed, and vanity seem to be speeding up the self-destruction. Might has never meant you are right and, in today’s global economy, it is even more true. Despite its huge $14 trillion national debt, a number that is impossible for a mortal human being to begin to picture, the country continues to plummet itself towards bankruptcy with its unending defense spending.

I have always loved the American people but will never understand how they allowed themselves to lose so much in so short an amount of time. It never ceases to amaze me how such an intelligent population so often elects, to put it politely, less than stellar candidates into office. As a Canadian, our country basically has followed in their footsteps. As a result, most of both countries’ manufacturing base has disappeared. It has been stated many times in many places that this is the biggest mistake that both countries have made in the last two or three decades. To me, the writing has been on the wall for a long time.

After living in China for only the last four years, I have come up with my own reasons why I think China will be the next number one empire in the world. Of course, Asia in general will be the next powerhouse but it looks like China will probably be leading the pack. Until the fifteenth or sixteenth century, China was by far one of the most advanced civilizations in the world. With more inventions and discoveries under their belt than all the other countries combined, they were the exemplars of the civilized world. Five hundred years later, they are struggling to regain their past glory.

Wal-Mart…and just about every other retailer

This corporate entity is probably one of the major reasons for the beginning of China’s rise to the top! This is really a no-brainer! Wal-Mart is one of the largest retailers in the world, if not the largest. Where does all their stuff come from? Duh!! Say no more…

Canada and the US allowed this to happen. The United States used to be a manufacturing dynamo. So what happened? Unions, corporate greed, and increasing consumer demand for cheaper and cheaper products forced all the manufacturing elsewhere. An economy cannot exist forever, let alone grow, on manipulation of digital stock. Let me tell you have to make stuff. Tangible items that can be touched and used by the average consumer. Whoever makes the most products is ultimately going to have the most money in the bank. You may have read already that China has a lot of cash. They own 10% of the 14 trillion dollar American debt. Anything that only exists on a computer screen is not real money. It is a fickle beast that can kick you in the face at any moment.

Quality is important but that will come with time and experience. The first Japanese products were not exactly masterpieces. I still remember shopping for my first Datsun back in the 60s. Everyone was laughing at that time at the emerging Japanese car and motorcycle market. Who’s laughing now?

Work Ethic

The Chinese people are hard workers. As I lie in my bed at five in the morning on any day of the week, I can hear the city coming alive as shops and restaurants open, and the everyday hustle and bustle begins. Talk with the average small business owner and you do not see a disgruntled person. Most are happy and willing to serve you from dawn to dusk. Many shops and restaurants are open by seven, at the latest, and do not shut until at least ten at night. Of course, part of it is the quest for the almighty buck, or I guess I should say, Yuan, but entrepreneurs here seem genuinely willing to help you. For the most part, the service in North America is at an all time low.

Yes, there are sweat shops. But these people are trying to better their life and a job is a job when you are trying to make a living. They cannot rely on unemployment and welfare checks like their counterparts in North America. I hate to bring it up but there have been sweat shops in other countries, including Canada and the US, and probably still are. In fact, during my university years, I worked in one in Quebec. This not-to-be-named curtain company produced a wide range of cheap curtains for a couple of huge retailers. Wages were below minimum and anyone that brought up the idea of forming a union was quickly fired. Most of the employees were single moms with very little education. They worked long hours in a climate of fear but had very few choices in terms of employment of any kind. Of course, it was wrong, but these kinds of places exist everywhere.

I also hear the term “slave labor” bandied about by many pundits as they speak out against China. It seems that not that long ago, there was a country that relied on slavery to globally dominate a particular market. Historically, many countries could be found guilty of relying on less than acceptable ways of mass production especially when it came to providing labor for their growing industries, but this has been common in many emerging economies as they enter the industrial age in a big way. It just so happens that many of them are entering this part of their history a lot later than the rest of the world.


Education is valued in this country. It is a part of the Chinese psyche. Students are expected to do well in school and are supported in that effort by their parents. Mathematics and science are looked up to and students who excel in those subjects are highly respected. In fact, in my classes, students who get 100% on tests are applauded by the rest of the class.

In our large, private boarding school, the school day starts at seven-thirty in the morning and classes run until almost four in the afternoon. But it doesn’t end there. After extracurricular activities and dinner, there is a compulsory two hour study session every night until nine o’clock. There is no time for part-time jobs, nightly parties, or hanging around the mall.

Our students think they have it good. If they were going to a typical Chinese public school, they would probably be attending school on Saturday as well. And their mathematics classes would be much more difficult. Much of what we cover in Grade 11 and 12 math courses, except for Calculus, has been seen by them in Chinese middle school. But they still have time to enjoy themselves and don’t spend their time whining and complaining.

Last year, our system graduated almost 1000 students, almost 100% of which went on to study in post-secondary institutions around the globe. Since we teach the Canadian curriculum, in English, half of our graduates ended up attending university in Canada. Most are enrolled in engineering or business programs. So just take a quick second to think about this…1000 students, educated in English, fluent in Chinese and English, incredible work ethic and drive to succeed, gaining engineering, or business degrees, connections in North America and China…I believe they will all have a bright future along with their country. And we are only one system in the country. This weekend, over fifty universities from Canada, the US and Switzerland attended our annual education fair to recruit students for their programs next year. This is the generation that will change China over time, either from the inside or the outside.

Sheer Numbers

In case you didn’t know it, there are a lot of Chinese; 1.3 billion at last count. And they are spreading out around the globe very quickly. The latest information I could find put the figure at 30 million Chinese living outside of China, 3 million of which are now living in Canada or the US. This number is growing steadily. A country with that many people, including a very large group living outside the country, is going to have more and more political clout. Yes, it is a communist state. Get over it! Maybe it will change, maybe it won’t but whatever happens, in so many ways on so many different levels, this many people are going to have a huge effect on China’s role in the future.

Nothing is wasted

Recycling is a catchy phrase in the west. It is rare to live in any Canadian or US city without some sort of recycling program. But it took a lot of convincing and there is still a long ways to go. In China, it is a way of life. Nothing is wasted. Any garbage is gone through with a fine-toothed comb and every scrap of any useable paper, cardboard, or plastic is salvaged. This is not a big commercial enterprise. It takes place, one pile of garbage at a time; often in a low-income (it’s all relative!)section of town . It provides a small amount of money for the people that go through these piles. It is not uncommon to see a scooter pass that is loaded to the hilt with Styrofoam or cardboard, often hiding the driver from view.

The same can be said when it comes to food. With 10% of the world’s arable land supporting 20% of the world’s population, it is not surprising that they eat “everything”. It is not a big meat-eating country but when they do eat meat, there is very little that goes to waste!

Renewable Energy

Imagine if the population of the United States was quadrupled overnight. Every town and city now has four times as many people. New York would have a population approaching 40 million people. This is what China deals with on a daily basis. Now imagine supplying energy to all those people. North America would have to change its tune, especially when it comes to energy, to cope. There would probably be a little more air pollution than there is currently. With only 5% of the world’s population, the US is consuming 20% of the world’s energy, six times per capita when compared to China.

There is no doubt that China is a very polluted country. Having said that, their long term goals surpass those of North America. As the New York Times recently reported, “China is leading the global race to make clean energy.” They are the world’s largest maker of wind turbines and solar panels and are pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants. Those countries that are now literally fighting to the death for more oil and refuse to change their energy wasting ways may soon be turning to China for alternative energy products. Then we will have more screaming about that! Again, how difficult is it to predict this for any educated person?

Fast and Inexpensive Transportation

Jump on a train in North America and then compare it to the new train systems here. You can’t compare. Again, it is forward thinking. Every year of experience that a country or firm has with new technology is one more year of catching up for those that jump on the bandwagon later on.

My son is teaching in Changsha, approximately 500 km from Wuhan. It is a small town of approximately 5 million of so people. By car, it would take about five hours. However, within twenty minutes I can be at the nearest train station, in another ten or fifteen minutes I have a ticket (the train leaves every twenty minutes), and less than an hour and a half later on the “bullet train”, I will be Changsha. I still find this amazing! The stations are really out-of-this-world. They are like something from a science fiction movie. Everything is computerized and very few people are required to run the place. Just be sure you are ready to get on when the train stops.

Every city either has a modern subway system, one is being built (as in Wuhan) or one is being planned. Getting around the country and/or cities quickly and efficiently enables people and businesses to operate that much more efficiently.


This was originally going to be another tongue-in-cheek article, but as I wrote I couldn’t help but look at the good part of China and all they have accomplished in the last couple of decades. I could have talked about the corruption, joked about the fact that they can sleep anywhere (a major part of every Chinese workday), the “guanxi” or networking “that keeps everything running, or even the rampant counterfeiting of everything that allows free access to any software and/or movies. But out of respect for the Chinese people and all they have accomplished in so short a period of time, I kept it fairly serious. I could have written a lot more but this was not meant to be a book!

I have grown to love this place, despite all the cultural differences, some of which are totally in opposition to anything we have been taught in North America. But with their work ethic, devotion to education, their long-term views towards the future, and a new, globally conscious generation of young people looking to make their mark on the world, I see nothing but success for this country in the next few decades.

When will China overtake the US as the world's largest economy?

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    • profile image

      Roger 2 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and gerueons advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 4 years ago from Florida

      I just wrote about China and Iran in one of my own Hubs, I think our direction as a nation is pretty clear if we continue under our current Administration, we are abdicating in favor of China just about everywhere possible on the international scene under Obama's reign, and even where issues at home matter, including drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Keystone pipeline... the benefactor of the decisions of the current Administration has been China.

    • profile image

      snowflake 5 years ago

      But the thing is, China will never boost about it. I believe what you are saying is right. but just Twenty years ago China was as poor as dirt.

    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 5 years ago from Thailand

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. It's always fun to see new comments.

    • nemanjaboskov profile image

      Nemanja Boškov 5 years ago from Serbia

      A great article, Steve.

      You have made some excellent points here, and I totally agree with you that China will grow and grow until it is Number One.

    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 5 years ago from Thailand

      Thank-you for reading...

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 5 years ago from Florida

      Steve LePoidevin,

      I like your parrot, and because I was taught if I could not say something nice do not say anything at all.

      America is having her issues at the moment, because she is pausing to go in another direction with being #1 still on her agenda.

      Thanks for your opinion, that is what freedom is all about, being able to say what you think without fear,

      of being run over by a tank.


    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 5 years ago from Thailand

      Thanks for dropping by and point well taken. I guess I get tired of all this "Down with China" rhetoric. The people of a country are not its government :)

    • Jed Fisher profile image

      Jed Fisher 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      One point to make, something so many like to overlook, is China can get richer than America without America getting poorer. The one has nothing to do with the other. As long as America keeps getting better, that's fine, and if China can improve at a faster rate, that's okay too. So China becomes the biggest economy in the world, that's great! It is the most populous country, so therefore, should be the largest economy. That's only fair. All this talk about America no longer being #1... What does that have to do with the price of tea in Texas?