Of Course China Wants To Replace The U.S.

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Zachary Zeck via The Diplomat,

Over at The Week, Think Progress’s Zack Beauchamp has a provocative piece arguing that “China is not replacing the United States as the global hegemon. And it never will.” Specifically, Beauchamp posits that “China faces too many internal problems and regional rivals to ever make a real play for global leadership. And even if Beijing could take the global leadership mantle soon, it wouldn’t. China wants to play inside the existing global order’s rules, not change them.”

The piece is well-argued and certainly worth a read. In particular, Beauchamp does us a service in combating the myth of the inevitability of China’s rise. He usefully points out that China’s economy faces a multitude of challenges that may prevent it from reaching the potential many currently foresee. He also points out that China faces powerful neighbors that won’t stand by idly if Beijing seeks to construct a new regional order, much less a global one.

Still, on balance, I think Beauchamp’s piece does more to confuse than to inform. The first issue is that even though he discusses the regional balance of power in the piece, his overall argument is that China will not be capable of replacing the United States as the “global hegemon.” Unfortunately, there are many who would claim that America is a global hegemon. However, that argument is preposterous under any reasonable definition of hegemony. It is true that in the post-Cold War (if not earlier) the U.S. has been the only power capable of projecting military power in any region of the world. But this has not allowed it to dictate the regional order of every continent as it largely can in the Western Hemisphere.

Moreover, even if America really is a global hegemon, this would just make it more unlikely that any rising power could replace it as a global hegemon. After all, America’s primacy in the post-Cold War era was only made possible because no other great power existed.  Since China’s rise won’t stop the U.S. from being a great power, unless the two go to war and China wins, Beijing’s relative power will be far less than America’s at the end of the Cold War. And of course, America’s relative power will also be far less than what it enjoyed in 1991.

There are other issues with Beauchamp’s analysis of China’s relative power. For example, he notes that “one analysis suggests China’s GDP may not surpass America’s until the 2100s.” To begin with, while possible, this view seems to be decidedly in the minority among serious economists. Even if China’s economy crashes before 2018—around the time many believe China’s absolute GDP will surpass America’s—it still seems likely that it will find a more sustainable economic model before 80 years pass. And given that China has about four times as many people as the United States, it could easily surpass the U.S. in absolute GDP terms in less than 80 years.

But even if China’s economy doesn’t surpass the United States, this hardly suggests it won’t present a major strategic challenge to Washington. Consider that, according to Paul Kennedy, in 1938 Japan’s share of world manufacturing was just 3.8 percent while America’s was 28.7 percent and the U.K.’s was 9.2 percent. A year earlier, according to the same source, the U.S. national income was $68 billion while the British Empire’s was $22 billion. Japan’s, comparison, was just $4 billion. Yet, in the initial battles of the Pacific War Japan decisively defeated the U.S., England, and the Dutch across the region.

Similarly, the Soviet Union’s GDP was only ever about half as large as the United States, and many times much less than that. This doesn’t mean that America and its allies didn’t face a real strategic threat in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The more egregious part of Beauchamp’s case, however, is his contention that China does not seek to challenge the U.S.-led order. In his own words: “Even if this economic gloom and doom is wrong, and China really is destined for a prosperous future, there’s one simple reason China will never displace America as global leader: It doesn’t want to.”

He goes on to explain: “China is content to let the United States and its allies keep the sea lanes open and free ride off of their efforts. A powerful China, in other words, would most likely to be happy to pursue its own interests inside the existing global order rather than supplanting it.”

Beauchamp isn’t alone in holding this view, which has many faithful adherents in the West. In fact, not too long ago it was the running consensus in the United States, as well as the foundation of U.S. China policy in both the George W. Bush and the early Barack Obama administrations.

One place where this view has not been very popular is in China itself. Indeed, far from being happy to allow the U.S. Navy to keep its sea lanes open, Chinese leaders have been warning about their country’s “Malacca Dilemma” for over a decade now. They have also been actively trying to reduce America’s ability to cut off China’s energy and raw material imports. As they should be—it would be irresponsible for China’s leaders to allow their country’s economy to be at the mercy of a potential competitor if they have the realistic opportunity to allow China to secure its own shipping lanes. This is doubly true in light of the fact that the U.S. has been known to impose sanctions on many countries, including China itself after Tiananmen Square.

But the issue goes much deeper than that. In fact, it goes to the heart of the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy at home. At its core, the CCP’s claim to power is based on its ability to restore China to its past glory. Again, neither China nor its leaders have ever made any secret about this. For example, the CCP has always emphasized that it saved China from its “century of humiliation” at the hands of the Western and Japanese colonial powers.

Similarly, since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed that, because of the CCP’s rule, the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” is now within China’s grasp. As Zheng Wang points out, the term “rejuvenation is deeply rooted in Chinese history and the national experience.”

Wang continues:

“As proud citizens of the ‘Middle Kingdom’ the Chinese feel a strong sense of chosenness and are extremely proud of their ancient and modern achievements. This pride is tempered, however, by the lasting trauma seared into the national conscious as a result of the country’s humiliating experiences at the hands of Western and Japanese imperialism. After suffering a humiliating decline in national strength and status, the Chinese people are unwavering in their commitment to return China to its natural state of glory, thereby achieving the Chinese Dream.”

Thus, the CCP would lose all its legitimacy at home if it voluntarily subordinated China to the United States despite being the more powerful country. The CCP treasures its grip on power above all else, and therefore it should come as no surprise that it has already ruled out taking this risk.

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Soul Glow's picture

Empires come and they go, the rest is history.

knukles's picture

If I had a jar of MSG, it'd look just like Trayvon's

Stackers's picture

China doesnt have the multi century history of global colonization like the Anglo-European "western" countries.

hobopants's picture

You nailed it. They don't want to take over the world, they just want to be number one in it. Look up the wiki article on the imperial chinese tributary system if you want to see what the world would look like if China were in the top spot.

chumbawamba's picture

You know what?  Fuck the Chinese, and I say that sincerely.  Any society that's willing to expend their fucking ground-level breathable atmosphere for some filthy lucre is not fit for world-class leadership, lest they set an example for all to shit in their own beds and then sleep in it.  WTF wants to live in a world that fargone?  NO THANKS, CHINA.

What I know of Chinese business culture makes inner city street gangs look like consumate professionals.  Their elites are of the same breed of psychopath as ours or any other, but with weirder ideas about cheating on their wives.  For all their contemporary growth and global business success, their political echelon is just a bunch of your standard greedy, incompetent douchefags, with smaller than average dicks.  They lured in all these Western corporations and then ended up fucking them once they stole all their trade secrets.  These are the shitbags that are supposed to transition into the global hegemon?

I'm not a Xenophobe, I just hate shitty people.  And the Chinese are shitty.  They have shitty customs and shitty beliefs.  Not all of them, but just like we have our stereotypes that are based in some reality, they have theirs.  And fuck 'em.  I don't like them.  They are weird and strange and based on foreign principals that are dumb and stupid.  America is basically a shithole, too, but at least we still have a heritage of a Declaration of Independence rather than some dynastical system of peonage that basically hasn't evolved since 1200AD.

Fuck You, China!

I am Chumbawamba

James_Cole's picture

I'm not a Xenophobe, I just hate shitty people.  And the Chinese are shitty.  They have shitty customs and shitty beliefs.  Not all of them, but just like we have our stereotypes that are based in some reality, they have theirs.  And fuck 'em.  I don't like them.  They are weird and strange and based on foreign principals that are dumb and stupid. 

That's one for the books. 

The Vineyard's picture

Ok.  Ok.  China's bad.  We get it.  Bitches.

AldousHuxley's picture

If USA proved Russia communism doesn't work against free market systems

China proved that capitalism doesn't work either when USA has to compete with unionized state sponsored capitalism.



Occident Mortal's picture

China and soon India, will continue to put huge pressure on the value of labour around the world.

Real income in the West will continue to fall and/or be flat, and real income in the East will continue to rise.


The reason it will continue is because the 19th and 20th Century created a gigantic imbalance between East and West, fuelled by cheap fossil fuels.


The West was historically far more expansionist and outward facing than the East (we had rougher seas and therefore better sailors) and so it was the West who discovered and seized Arabian/Persian oil.


Now, after years of decadence and excess, we are bloated with debt and are stumbling. The cheap oil is gone but our debts are not, and no amount of monetary smoke and mirrors can change the laws of thermodynamics. Our advantage was the oil.


Now in 2014, the West is fighting a Malthusian catastrophe and the East is just pulling out of our slipstream. China may not want to lead, but it may have no choice. 

chumbawamba's picture

Well, that's certainly a nice load of regurgitated horseshit.  Did you swallow all that voluntarily or was it force fed?

You need to update your set of encyclopedias.

I am Chumbawamba.

Lore's picture

Anti-China ranters should be encouraged strongly to look into the background of people like Kissinger and Bertrand Russell regarding the LONG TERM STRATEGIC DECISION to transfer WESTERN manufacturing capacity EASTWARD.  Do not make the mistake of blaming Chinese people for American outsourcing. On many levels, a NWO is already here and has been for some time. 

chumbawamba's picture

Dude!  You got 4444454.  I wonder who got 4444444?


Strongbad's picture

"China proved that capitalism doesn't work either when USA has to compete with unionized state sponsored capitalism."

I don't think so.  China is growing fast because they have 1 billion people that are going from complete poverty to modern industrial society.  Who is to say that the growth wouldn't be even more explosive in a truly capitalist system?  USA meanwhile is itself slipping into state-sponsered capitalism in many sectors of the economy.

foodisgood's picture

I used to like you Chumbs - but you are an idiot.

And for tylers - will they ever speak to the real reason China desires status? Cause they have paid the COST.

What does the fukwit tylers know of Cost? Well now being the 7th time he has kicked me off these comments section for making threatening comments like:


It seems tylers want to replace the fukin naggers they incesantly nag about cause they is so consumed with naggerslave2$dom they is scared shitless of paying any Cost.

chumbawamba's picture

Aw, fuck you.  I used to like the Chinese and were rooting for them to replace the piece of shit American Empire but then I realized they're as shitty as any other shitty empire-minded people.  Yours is the only country I know where people rip the hides off of living dogs, so fuck you.

Go back to your troll cave and celebrate the nobody you are.

I am Chumbawamba.

Zwelgje's picture

Weak. Obviously you don't have a clue what is going on in the food industries in the West.

chumbawamba's picture

Nor do I care, because that's a total non sequitur, Camel.

I am Chumbawamba.

foodisgood's picture

Chumbs - you sure are a nagger of highest proportions. Know all the problems and who has caused em - yet somehow YOU are not part of it.

Fuck Me? Too bad you have no balls and sing like a girl otherwise one might have a smidgeon of faith in the Iidea you would say that to my face you fukin nagger (how is that as an accurate assesment boy?)


Dugald's picture


Fuck You, China!

I am Chumbawamba

Why so reticent, let it go and really say what you mean fella....


chumbawamba's picture

I'm only replying to your inane and irrelevant comment to point out that your comment ID is 4444555, which is pretty sweet.

I am Chumbawamba.

misled's picture

Dont know if this is real... but if it is. Goddamn...





FredFlintstone's picture

Wealthy Chinese eat fetuses I hear. A delicacy. They eat a rabbit stew, bones and all (crunch, crunch)! Bon appetit!

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


Wealthy Chinese eat fetuses I hear. A delicacy.

That is scurrirous rumour. Can prainry see is not fetus:


Lore's picture

Sheeple psy-op.  The myth gets dusted off and re-used periodically.


pods's picture

Reminds me of the dolphin slaughter in Japan. WTF are wrong wither these people?


North Sea Cowboy's picture

It's real alright, and for that reason alone I hope those heartless bastards are never in a dominant position over anyone. You can forget any notion of fair play or mercy.

misled's picture

Dont know if this is real... but if it is. Goddamn...





UserLong's picture

Yep, Yep, Yep. China will take over the leadership, they will pollute the whole world, they will destroy countries, they will nuke the whole planet to bits! Happy!?


I cannot imagine how did you managed your narrow minded life, but hey, let's say you are getting hysterical. You think a new power endeavour to the top spot just want to screw it? Screw you! Your logic is just a joke.

Ar-Pharazôn's picture



if they are totally polluting THEIR country, what do you think they would do to the rest of the world?

Lord Koos's picture

"Any society that's willing to expend their fucking ground-level breathable atmosphere for some filthy lucre is not fit for world-class leadership..."


Really -- and what about a country that is willing to expend their clean drinking water for some filthy lucre? Fracking, West Virginia, Keystone pipleline etc etc.


Your stereotyping of the chinese strike me as xenophobic and racist to say the least.  I do agree that modern chinese culture is probably just as sick as modern American culture.

strangewalk's picture

Chumbawamba is partially right. I spent 10 years in China and it's true; you can't drink water from the tap anywhere and the air in most urban zones is carcinogenic soup. Also, the culture is corrupt and rotten from top to bottom and the people have been told what to think for so long that they sometimes come across as full on zombies. But, I don't hate the Chinese, there's a lot of really decent folk in that country and the part of Chinese culture that is not rotten has an unparalled beauty to it. They do want to dominate the world though in every way--and their government is right now pumping them up to the task.  

NihilistZero's picture

The ChiComs can't win an expansionary war against the West.  We broughtthem into the global economy to avoid a Nuclear World War. Mission accomplished expect a protectionist divided world over the next several years with lots of saber rattling but hopefully without ICBMs flying.

maxamus's picture

Um, that is exactly how the US came to be the world leader.  And that is exactly what the Republican Party wants now.

svayambhu108's picture

Germany had a similar problem with an exception of the Austro-Hungarian experience ecompassiog few countries, which could be China's Tibet.

svayambhu108's picture

... at least to my ears it rhymes

Offthebeach's picture

If you like your Middle Kingdom, you can keep it.

TruthHunter's picture

I am reminded:

Dowager with dog is standing at the curb. Cab screams to stop, killing dog.

Cabby jumps out kneels before dowager and says "madam I will replace your dog!"

Dowager looks him over and says "Don't flatter yourself!"

China don't flatter yourself!

Fish Gone Bad's picture

Of course China wants to replace the US, and do all the same F'd up things the US has done.  I am pretty sure that will never happen.

IridiumRebel's picture

The Chinese have historically not been adventurous or advantageous to the outside world. They traveled as far as the Horn of Africa centuries before others and turned around because to them, there is no place like home. Western traders, goods and offers fell on deaf ears because the Chinese thought they were trinkets brought by white monkeys; Insufficient. Opium changed everything. The 20th century turned China from a land of warlords owning regions to a world manufacturing power house. The road has been long, but my point is that China is only recently expanding reach to places like Africa. They are savvy and understand that economics and math will be the greatest weapon over the West. I do not see them initially trying to be as ubiquitous as America, but hegemony's elixir changes national interest. I truly believe that we will see a multipolar world. The dollar will die and globalism will make us even more interconnected. China may become the lead pony. America will no longer be front of the trough, however, as our share lessens and there become more mouths to feed.

Spumoni's picture

You have interesting definitions: "The Chinese have historically not been adventurous or advantageous to the outside world." 

The Chinese had sailed the entire globe by the end of the 15th Century. There are wrecks of Chinese junks from New Zealand to Oregon. Where do you think the West got the printing press? However did ginseng get into Appalachia? How did Magellan and Columbus come to have maps of the world which had maps of North and South America's west coasts depicted on them?

DaVinci was a great artist, without a doubt. He also was a plagiarist of epic proportions. Hundreds of the drawings in the Codex existed for a hundred years or more before he ever saw them, in the Yongle Dadian-a monumental encyclopedia of Chinese art, history, science, medicine, engineering and manufacturing brought into being by Emperor Zhu Di (1400's). Europe's Renaissance was a direct result of literature and technology brought to Italy by Ping An's fleet in 1434. There is an excellent, well-researched and documented work by Gavin Menzies called 1434 which might enlighten you a little on the Chinese sense of adventure and what advantages it bestowed upon the globe.

Their sense of adventure is also quite visible today: go to Canada and Africa and see how many mining and timber companies they operate. Check out the wine-growing regions of the world for their rising numbers of Chinese owners. Much of the real estate stolen by banks around the 'developed' world has been sold to Chinese customers. 

Let us hope that there are advantages for us in today's travelling show as well.

IridiumRebel's picture

They spent the 16th thru 20th centuries at home warding off opium carrying western Banksters as they coalesced regional warlordism into the world manufacturer by the 90s. Of course there were Chinese explorers, but the empire from Ming thru Qing and up to Sun Yatsen thru Mao was about China.

Spumoni's picture

True enough. But "China" is an enormous landmass. No doubt they have some regrets for empowering the West, given our propensity for killing off and screwing up anyplace we land. Isolationism appears among Asian nations from time to time. The Tokugawas did the same thing with Japan for four hundred years. 

The trouble with European derivations is that their historical perspective is, at best, measured in a few centuries. Asian perspective is measured in thousands of years. The advent of television has resulted in hundreds of millions of people's historical perspective being shrunk to whatever the last episode of their favorite show was.

I wish that we could have a little longer view back here in the developed world. The things we are doing in the name of immediate cash and power have a very short life-probability curve. And yet we keep having children. I'm guessing we don't like them very much.

IridiumRebel's picture

Agreed. I was pondering my little town in Ohio and the plaque that states settlement to around 1797. The Chinese have been continuous for over 4500 years. Perspective we do not have.

Spumoni's picture

I keep reminding myself that life is short, so have a good time and try not to leave a bad trail behind. It used to be easier. Just glad to be able to have any perspective at all, though. Plenty entertaining!

There is some good perspective in Ohio, though. Yellow Springs has a cool canyon running by, and Young's Dairy Farm restaurant sure adds context for 'fastpood'. 

IridiumRebel's picture

We are much happier here than Connecticut/NYC where we moved from. I'll check Yellow Springs.

kevinduhand's picture

You guys are funny. Ancient Chinese culture has been DEAD since the fucking "Cultural Revolution" led by Mao the dictator!



epicurious's picture

Yeah last time I was in China so many people praying and burning insense at temples to hundreds of gods.  Although I was impressed that they had a temple to worship literature god. Very obvious that old culture is alive and unwell.