By Neel Shah

To determine how China has grown to the leading power it is today, we need to understand its modern history. In 1949, the communist party of China under Mao Zedong officially won a civil war against the Nationalist (Kuomintang) party on the Chinese mainland, pushing the nationalist forces to the island of Taiwan (or Chinese Taipei). This officially rendered China a communist state under the leader Mao. Mao Zedong was important in consolidating Chinese power through agricultural reforms and the Great Leap Forward; however, these were controversial as they resulted in an estimated 45 million deaths (equivalent to the current size of the population of Argentina). Under the communist party, China has grown in power (however the ethics behind this growth are controversial).

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How has China developed since the 1970s?

As the graph on the right shows, China has seen some of the highest growth rates in GDP (income) globally, and has (by some measures) overtaken the USA as the worlds’ largest economic power.

This is due to many reasons, including: rapid urbanisation, a move into the secondary (industrial) sector, a large population of working age and access to natural resources. With a large population, most of whom worked in agriculture or services, China was able to establish dominance in several industries and is now the most recognisable goods producing nation in the world, and the worlds’ largest exporter. But, as China grows and workers earn more and more, it should be interesting to see which country would fill this vacuum for cheap labour, with many hypothesising Vietnam will take on this mantle.

China Today: Superpower?

In many ways, China can be viewed as an emerging superpower. A superpower is defined as a very powerful and influential nation. This can refer to several things including: military strength, economic superiority and cultural dominance.

·        According to PPP measures, China overtook the USA in GDP with 17% of the worlds’ GDP (1% more than the US) as of 2014. This makes China the largest economy in the world. In addition, China is the largest exporter in the world and the second largest importer, making it a major trade partner. China also has economic superiority over the USA through their dollar reserves. If China were to sell the millions of dollars in Chinese reserves, China could destroy the US economy through causing a massive depreciation in the currency (due to excess supply).

·        China is usually considered the 2nd or 3rd largest military globally, behind the USA and in some measures Russia (due to their nuclear dominance).  Although this does not make it a military superpower, it is likely to develop its military and may soon dominate the world through its military.

·        Chinese culture is not very significant however is growing rapidly. Chinese restaurants are a staple in most towns and cities, and Chinese cultural beliefs (such as Chinese New Year) are growing in significance. In addition, China are beginning to develop movies to rival India, Japan and the USA, thus emerging as a cultural power.

In my opinion, China today is not a global superpower (a position only the USA holds), however China will soon meet the USA re-establishing a world with two major powers. In addition, China may be able to overtake the USA assuming that it can improve life for its population in addition to the nation as a whole.

To read more about China's grasp on Europe; click here