110712-N-TT977-077 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen in China on July 12, 2011. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)President-elect Donald Trump has already caused an international kerfuffle. He’s not yet in office, but has already received a formal diplomatic complaint from China. The object of China’s displeasure was a congratulatory phone call Trump received from the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. China views Taiwan as a secessionist province that will eventually be reincorporated, but many Taiwanese are fiercely proud of their independence.

Was it a carefully calculated move to remind China of American power, or an unthinking faux pas on the part of Trump’s transition team? Either way, Trump followed-up with a characteristic “Twitter outburst”, criticising China for a host of perceived failings. But should he perhaps step away from his Twitter account and take a more considered approach in his dealings with a rising power?

During the 2016 Security Jam (the report of which can be read here), participants were asked the question: What will be the most powerful actor in the world by 2050? Only 3% said “the EU”, whereas 39% said “the USA”… and fully 43% of respondents said “China”.

We had a comment from Luis, who agreed that China was likely to be the most powerful country on Earth by the year 2050. Perhaps the USA (and Europe) should tread lightly around the waking giant? As China’s power grows, should its international partners be more wary of blundering into diplomatic spats?

To get a response, we spoke to Shada Islam, Director of Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe. What would she say to Luis and his comment?

We also had a comment from Tris, who thought that China will eventually become an international superpower. Not only that, but Tris believes that China will eventually become a “second USA”, possibly projecting its power globally and taking decisions unilaterally. Is he right? Or will China perhaps be more cooperative and multilateral in its approach?

shada-islamSo, Tris, this is the 64 million dollar question that everyone is asking: ‘What kind of a power will China be?’ Look, we don’t know, but if we are to look at China today, we see a very cooperative, collaberative power. China likes to work together – with the European Union among others – to build a stable and prosperous China, but also a stable and prosperous region in Asia.

Now, there are rivalries with Japan, with Korea, with some of the ASEAN countries, there are some territorial issues that have to be resolved. But, so far, and I think this is going to be the trajectory of China going forward, it bases its foreign policy on partnerships, on working with other global powers. So, I don’t see a unilateral China. I see a China that’s very engaged, very powerful, but working on a multilateral level.

Will China be the most powerful country on Earth by 2050? How will China choose to exercise its power? Will it be a “second USA”, making decisions unilaterally? Or will it be more cooperative and collaberative in its approach? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Times Asi

109 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Depends on how you define “power” I suppose. In regards of economy and military, it’s very possible.

    • avatar
      Giulia Noia Dipresa

      their economy isn’t doing very well since they produce more than they can ever sell…

    • avatar
      Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

      @Giulia Noia Dipresa: Which is precisely why the Chinese government has turned towards economic policies strengthening domestic purchasing power.

    • avatar
      Mika Ainasoja

      Future is made of dreams! 😘

    • avatar
      Rémi Martin

      EU won’t exist till 2050, after France’s leaving.😆

    • avatar
      Mika Ainasoja

      That is just it, we are not leaving! People do not understand. Colonies are no more but WE are.

    • avatar
      Guido Foi

      Italy will destroy the EU❤ so will France and Spain!

    • avatar
      Mika Ainasoja

      🎅 We are still here! 😀 Separate countries are not EU.

    • avatar

      Could be but must to reform and consolidate..

  2. avatar
    Max Berre

    that depends on what US and Europe want to do about it. So far, the European allies mainly just free-ride the alliance. So, the growth of china’s strength seems assured.

    • avatar
      Claudiu Popa

      Well the Chinese keep bringing money in Europe, buying property and businesses, agricultural land and forests. At this rate there won”t be an Europe by 2050…

    • avatar

      not at all

  3. avatar
    Valentino Celeghin

    Probably, but they have way more effective ways to conquer the world than military power. Look at all infrastructures in Africa for example.

  4. avatar

    China is trying to build a base of nearby countries to have a solid leadership. They want to change Asia, do business with Russia and even to connect Europe. I think this will not be easy, as US will not let China rise so easily and will try to undermine. But a country with the population that China has and organized as they are is hard to stop.

    • avatar

      Yes, tha could happen but don’t forget about the demographics. The three decades of the one child policy will take a heavy hit on the population and workforce. Then China will have to spend a large amount of money on healthcare and stuff for the half of the population considering they will be retired by the late 2030s-40s.

      Lastly, Taiwan still claims all of China in their constitution. If the major countries wanted to do something, Taiwan might be able to recieve support in taking parts of the land in China. Though, i’m not too sure how this will work but it is my theory and guess.

  5. avatar
    Yordan Vasilev

    China is the second largest economy in the world, but this country has problems with human rights and with freedom of the thought, because of that it has problems with innovations. USA is and will be the most powerful country on Earth.

  6. avatar
    Lidija Bojčić

    My opinion and my article just on this topis:
    … “When will we see the real China’s foreign policy? Then when China is equal to the US military. It is likely that the political or military conflicts break out in the near future. China is still cautious as the weaker of the United States. Chinese military still lags behind the United States and the US-Japan Alliance and it could take 5-10 years. Still, China depends more economically than the US than vice versa. The main Chinese markets are the US, Europe and Japan. With these areas, China imported high technology, as well as raw materials by sea. Therefore, China is very sensitive to the naval blockade. China has taken a strategic partnership with Russia and it is working on European integration in the form of the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road. These actions are intended primarily for the Chinese less dependent on maritime trade. Maritime trade in the Pacific is controlled by the US Navy, and this is why China needs to create a continental market.

    To implement these plans, China will need very many years, and some larger shift will not be before 2025. Then China could be equated with the United States in the Western Pacific. China will then fully carry out the objectives of its foreign policy and will inevitably come into conflict with the US and its allies. Unlike Europe, the United States is still the classic Westphalian state with very large nationalism. Therefore, the United States will sooner or later declare China as an enemy. These two countries could develop mutual behavior that will have major and serious consequences. As the final outcome, the war was possible between them in the next 10-20 years. The conflict could break out between the two countries or for third parties: Taiwanese territorial disputes in the South China and East China Sea, the Korean crisis. Of course, there is the possibility of disputes and that will only arise and which today can not be predicted. It is possible, the United States will form a military alliance in the field of Indo-Pacific that could be included Japan, India, Vietnam and Australia. The status of the Philippines as a US ally is currently unclear because of recent policy Philippine President Duterte who has made a diplomatic shift towards China. In the event of such an alliance, the war with any country would mean war with all of them. On the other hand, China could create an alliance that would include Russia, Central Asia and Pakistan. This would ensure China itself back and get some kind of military support.” …

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      Well put Lidija, but we all are speculating once more. “Crystal ball”? Cooperating with China (& India) by extending trade does benefit both worlds. But, by conceding to China’s conditional demand of simultaneous technology transfer with trade, accelerates mainly the military might of China. To bring 500-600 mio people out of poverty is an enviable achievement!

      How, where & when does one put on some breaks? Do you think a tougher, peaceful, but strictly pro businesslike Trump approach would work better? Or will it just be delaying the inevitable?

  7. avatar
    Adam Bxcz

    Power is a relative term. China is a local power which is largely non-interventionist for now which means it surely can be greatest power but will it be like new usa? Highly unlikely.

  8. avatar
    Michael Šimková

    Well you need to distinguish between Beijing government and Chinese people as a whole. The Beijing government is very peculiar and that is the entity we are used to dealing with. Chinese people are a mixed bag and if anything pretty reminiscent of American people in many ways. What kind of power China will be depends on how its people evolve, how educated they become, and what kind of government is in power. The current government is just technocratic, but China has a very strong nationalist side too, and Beijing government frequently manipulates it for support. Maybe one day they will lose control over the impulses they are cultivating.

  9. avatar
    Michael Šimková

    Well you need to distinguish between Beijing government and Chinese people as a whole. The Beijing government is very peculiar and that is the entity we are used to dealing with. Chinese people are a mixed bag and if anything pretty reminiscent of American people in many ways. What kind of power China will be depends on how its people evolve, how educated they become, and what kind of government is in power. The current government is just technocratic, but China has a very strong nationalist side too, and Beijing government frequently manipulates it for support. Maybe one day they will lose control over the impulses they are cultivating.

  10. avatar
    Peter Redondeiro

    Additionally, for it to be the most powerful country on Earth, it needs to be given that “permission” and “acknowledgment” (Very difficult to happen). You see, in the interesting world of international relations, there a connection between a Hegemon and its peers and friends, as its friends, need to acknowledge and allow it to be the Hegemon, otherwise, a “counter” movement will happen. Not to mention, China’s neighbor (Russia), who will not even in a million years let that happen. Russia already started raising eyebrows, about china’s investment in central Asia and deployment of troops in the same area. The Kind of support the US has and had, from its allies to be hegemon, simply does not exist, as unlike the US the PRC, is not what society aspires to (Dictatorship, limited freedom of speech, homophobic values, powerful “hand” of the state in every aspect of citizens lives, patriarchal system, etc). Well, unless, China fully embraces liberal and democratic values and makes a very deep reform of its system.

  11. avatar
    Zsolt Füri

    Most probably yes, no point to turn back now…its military and political expansion in Asia, Africa and the Pacific is inevitable

  12. avatar
    Alen Miklavž

    No. They will crumble under their debt. They had 5.000 yers time, and they are gonna do it in the next 30 years, despite economical, political and ethnical tensions? A 50/50 chance being optimistic ..

  13. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    YEEEEESSSSS !!! They are clean from Christians and Muslims . They can manufacture and install solar panels , they can develop hydrogen and electric cars and government is going to help them . The EU government did everything to stop that , some people want to import Arab oil and gas . China is going to develop technology for the future .

    EU should STOP all oil and gas imports from Arab countries to destroy their ambitions . The EU should only import oil and gas from Norway , Russia , Canada and US .

    100% wind , solar and hydro is very simple and cheap to achieve.

    NOTHING is more simple and cheaper for the EU than to create energy security but the EU is barrier to it. I could do it , I could solve energy supply for the EU for the next 50 Years for less money then the EU spend under 5 Years for import of dirty energy . HOW ? The tariffs on Chinese made solar panels range from 100% to 110% , we should have it 0% and 0% on electric cars . Remove all tariffs on Chinese made solar panels and help EU manufacturing with example 0,2 Euro/Watt . 100% solar, wind and hydro is very cheap and clean option for the EU. Price for solar panels is under 0,35 Euro/Watt . EU could simple order 2000 gigawatt solar panels for 1000 billion Euro . EU should give for free 10 to 50 kW of solar panels to all EU citizens ( 10 – 500 kW to farmers) willing to install it by themselves . They should pay off those panels with electricity they don’t use also with electricity they send back to the grid. To install it like this is simple and cheap , it is like IKEA furniture : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04p6-zK5-o
    When we have energy we don’t need we should produce hydrogen and store it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNHwi6IryNI
    We could use hydrogen for trucks , buses , heavy machines and electricity backup . EU should invest in similar companies https://nikolamotor.com/

    • avatar
      Zhe Yuan Ling

      I am thinking the same way you are

  14. avatar

    In 2016 We’re still talking about military power and arms, why don’t we start talking about cultural power and People wellness?

  15. avatar
    Matic Murn

    Yes. They already buying everything in Europe. Today Chinese delegation came to my company Adria..to copy technology i guess

  16. avatar
    Sonia Micallef

    Erm do you have any doubt? Were you thinking that Germany or US would be the most powerful one? :)

  17. avatar

    It is very likely that China gets to the first place by 2050, at least economically. They Will need to extend and strenghen their diplomatic network and maybe move away from the traditional Global Institutions dominated by the “old powers”. On the other side, the US have everything of a great power: military and intelligence, economics, demography, diplomacy, technology, lingua franca, currency of reference, commerce and inland natural resources (even oil to a certain extent). In addition, their geographic position places them at the centre between Europe and Asia and gives them the largest maritime space on the planet. Quite a comprehensive range of assets that China will never entierely possess but can benefit from through trade agreements with other nations. I forsee a scenario such as a balance of power: 1 year China at the top, another the US as GDP isn’t the only indicator of power.

  18. avatar

    China will implode soon. Their semi-communist-neo-liberal-globalist centralized system has a lot of flaws. It’s just a matter of time, tick, tock.

  19. avatar
    Liz Apap

    Well history goes round in circles, so better start learning Chinese…..

  20. avatar
    Jean-Jacques Eiza Lauture

    Development, discipline and solidarity create focus and civilisation progress. On the contrary development Exacerbated by individualism and ego just create rooting. This is a balance, like in a nuclear reactor there is only one choice, which is the choice to converge. Will we continue to focus and unify for our common goods, respects of life and sustainable well being, or will we divide, just playing our own cards, or could we share together China and Europe best practices? This is more important than to know who will be first, do not you think?

  21. avatar
    Ashok SIngh

    China is strong from outside but equally fragile from the inside. A country aspiring to become the biggest power in the world could not stop it’s wealthy people who were and are fleeing to western country permanently.

    A significant share of China’s growth came from government spending which was dependent credits. Another major source of their growth is massive exports which are increasingly becoming less competent due to higher wages.

    But nobody can write off China either regardless of their state of affairs.

    So giving a verdict on China will be premature on either side. China is the biggest experiment world has witnessed in recent history under an autocratic regime.

  22. avatar
    Shibabrata Das

    Don’t forget about India ,we are giving strong competition to china on every aspect ,IMF and other economic forum has predicted , India economic growth will steady for atleast 30 years…

    • avatar
      Hector Niehues-Jeuffroy

      You are giving strong competition to China in every aspect? Don’t embarrass yourself. In per capita terms, India’s real GDP growth rate has been much lower than China’s over the last decade, its population living in extreme poverty is much higher, its corruption is much higher, its Ease of Doing Business ranking is lower, its HDI is nearly 12 percentage points lower, your manufacturing is peanuts compared to China’s, so in what area is India strongly competing with China? IT, number of English speakers and number of cricket world victories?

  23. avatar
    Shibabrata Das

    Don’t forget about India ,we are giving strong competition to china on every aspect ,IMF and other economic forum has predicted , India economic growth will steady for atleast 30 years…

  24. avatar
    Andrea Brown

    Most likely China will be the most powerful country in the world in every way before 2050. It is going to be a reality that we really need to accept.

  25. avatar
    Andrea Brown

    Most likely China will be the most powerful country in the world in every way before 2050. It is going to be a reality that we really need to accept.

  26. avatar
    Julia Hadjikyriacou

    Say thank you to US & EU corporations for exploiting China’s cheap 10c an hour workforce and lack of regulations. I guess and the people who buy those products that enable the corporations.

    • avatar
      Si Yip

      I think that your comment about 10c per hour workforce might be a bit tounge in cheek, but if you actually think that people in China really do earn so little you should maybe do some research on the subject.

  27. avatar

    china will never be dominate because gobalization will cease to exist, china is a currency manipultator and London will be out of the Euro zone europe is going to fall apart, and as for china, china will be falling apart as well, china cannot be a world power because it it closing up its economy its going to be less transparant, people get real.

  28. avatar

    china will have an economy like the soviet union, a closed economy, china is going inward

  29. avatar

    No, China will peak at some point in the next 20 years, but it will no be able to maintain it. China, also has a aging demographic that by 2050 will be entering their pension age, so it will decline. Not to mention their news channels are harshly filtered so they many major domestic problems are not shown. China will not be able to become the most powerful country on Earth, at least not more than a year or two before it implodes. A country that is not getting enough attention, but should, is India.

  30. avatar
    Texas Gamer

    Not even close cause the chinese military is weak

    • avatar
      Zhe Yuan Ling

      It is the 3rd most powerful in the world! YOU ARE BIASED

  31. avatar
    Franklin F. Carbone

    China will likely consolidate the sum total of their influence the “old fashioned way” with property and financial leverage the US has yet to acknowledge..the Chinese are a patient people and business and tactical skill-set integrationalist Maestros!! I have dealt with them in the aerospace arena for years..they will very ably Acquit themselves as well as patiently and adroitly Rule the world…the jury is out as to how they will ultimately win over every last one us!! I cannot help but smile as they make Trump and both houses of Congress look like the stupid moronic simpletons that they are….selling America piecemeal!

    • avatar
      Zhe Yuan Ling

      I agree, as Trump has downgraded international relations with many countries, and since I have been keeping track of the chinese economy since 2006. They have been growing very rapidly, and are for sure to surpass all economies in 2030.
      (Including the USA, because Trump is running america right now like a toddler driving a 1950 car that hasn’t been repaired since).

  32. avatar
    Robert Rivera

    China will have problems to deal with in the future. They have a huge, growing elderly population, 600 million in abject poverty, muslim population, they mainly export goods their people can’t afford, etc, etc. India will surpass China as the most populous country, and they’re no push-over economically. No one can tell the future, but China’s free ride is slowling and will grow sluggish with time.

    • avatar
      Si Yip

      The internationally accepted figures regarding the poverty level in China is now 5% (2016 figures) in 1980 the poverty level in China was 80%+. There are more millionaires and billionaires in China than anywhere else except for the USA, and 30-35%+ of the population is already classed as middle class.

    • avatar

      Dont’ forget India is there too. India is becoming a major dark horse right now and are similarly following China’s footsteps. Also, Taiwan is ticking time bomb that may or may not explode. Taiwan still claims allof of China in their constitution. If Taiwan get’s the support of the rest of the major powers, they might be able to take parrs of China’s land.

  33. avatar

    If some key reforms in China be carried out, then it is.

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