The Rise of China

In the last four to five decades, China’s growth has elevated it as a country to a position of major superiority and power. It has become what is seen as a superpower in the modern world, an Eastern country joining the ranks of the Western giants. The country nicknamed ‘the Dragon’, China has always been a strong nation with a great presence, but was overshadowed by western nations such as North America and Europe as they soared upwards during the industrial revolution, and maintained their strength through to today.

However, China’s recent boom has seen it shooting back up to the top, and was brought on by a number of factors. The country’s economic, political and military improvements and current positions in the world have been the main factors contributing to its massive growth and current prosperity, and can be credited to various important factors within the country, such as its massive population, geographical size and location and an effective government.

Despite China insisting and placing a lot of emphasis on the idea of its own term ‘peaceful rise’, its rapid expansion, especially in its military, has sent alarm bells ringing in other countries such as the USA, Australia, Britain and other western democratic countries, as it poses an increasingly powerful and formidable threat, along with old ally Russia. With the memories of the Cold War still fresh in our minds, a watchful eye has been placed upon this Communist country and the threats that it poses as it continues to rise.

The growth of the Chinese economy is a major contributing factor to the overall growth and rising of the entire country. It is the second largest economy in the world, based on nominal GDP and Purchasing Parity Power, the first being the United States of America. It is also the most rapidly growing major economy, with average growth rates of around 10% over the past 30 years.

China is currently the world’s largest exporter of goods, and second largest importer. In the early 1970s, China’s economy was an essentially closed off, internal, centrally planned system, with little involvement in the global market. Since then it has become majorly market orientated and plays a vital global role in world trade, as demonstrated by the above facts. Steps taken in this time to exact such a huge change started with elimination of collectivized and conformist agriculture systems, moving on to include the gradual reformation of prices, an increase in autonomy for state enterprises, the creation of a varied, diverse banking system, the development of stock markets, which sparked rapid growth of the private sector, and finally the opening up to foreign trade and investment.

With these facts in mind, it is easy to see and gain an understanding of the massive growth that China’s economy has undergone, and the position of power that it is in today, with no foreseeable reasons or causes for such growth to come to a stop in the future. One major problem that China faces which holds back its economy and opposes even further growth is overpopulation, and a rapidly aging population due to their population control policies of parents only allowed one child. There are an estimated 1,343,239,923 people living in China currently. This drastically decreases the country’s income per capita, ranking it number 90, making it below the world average. The unemployment rate in China is an estimated 6.5%, and 13.5% of the population lives below the poverty line (US$363).

A positive aspect of such an enormous amount of people is the amount of labourers that comes with it. The labour force of China is the largest in the world, with 795.5 million people. In the last 30 or so years, the amount of workers in cities has steadily increased as most of the people living in rural areas moved into urban areas and cities to find work in factories or other low-paid, low level education jobs.

This extremely large workforce is a very important factor of the country, one of the main reasons that it has been able to grow so much already, and is crucial in the sustained growth of the future. One of Chinas most impressive and also a rather alarming aspect of its current position of power in the world, something that has drawn much attention from other countries during its rise, is the strength, size and mysterious nature of its military.

The PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) is the armed national defence forces of the People’s Republic of China, and includes land, sea and air forces. Controlled by the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, not the Ministry of Defence, it is not technically a part of the state, which raises many concerns in the world regarding who actually controls this force, where its loyalties lay and what its future objectives and priorities may be. China’s worrying its neighbours and other powerful countries of the world not just because of its new military threat, but also because it is widely unknown who is in charge of it. It is currently the largest military force in the world, with approximately 3 million members, and has the largest active army in the world, of 2.25 million members.

The main advantage that China has over other countries, such as the US, which is the main reason for the size of its army, is its huge population. Technically, military service in China is compulsory for men over the age of 18, however this has never been or needed to be enforced because of the overwhelming amount of volunteers, which is due to the huge population. Since the 1950s, the PLA has steadily gained strength as an army through numerous reforms enacted by leaders at the time. Around 20 years ago, China’s military was strong, but its strength relied very heavily on their numbers.

However in modern warfare, pure size and massive ground forces have become obsolete and very ineffective against modern technology and battle tactics. The PLA realised this and began to change in the 1990s, learning much from the American military and changing up their tactics with new high tech weaponry and strategies. In 2011, China spent 89.8 billion US dollars on their military, the second highest after the USA, who spent 739.3 billion. It also looks likely that China will the past decade’s increases of 12% per year on military expenditure, and that in 20-30 years it will be the world’s biggest military spender, surpassing even the US, which currently spends over 4 times as much as China.

Closely linked to both the economic and militaristic aspects of China, are the political and government aspects. Chinas government has steered its country in a forward and upward direction in the past 50 years, fuelling and controlling its rise to great power. The government is definitely the single most important factor which affected China so positively and allowed for growth in all other aspects of the country. Without the control and strong direction provided by the Chinese government, neither its military nor economy could’ve excelled so much.

The People’s Republic of China, or just China for short, is a communist state, one of only 4 left in the world, and has been since 1949. The current chief of state is president Hu Jintao, vice president is Xi Jinping, and head of government is premier Wen Jiabao. Despite tension with democratic nations, notably the US, during wars, especially the cold war, China has remained on good terms with most other countries, powerful or not.

They have no real notable enemies besides Japan and Taiwan, with who there has been disputes and fighting over territories for quite some time. But aside from that, China is on good terms with countries such as the US, Britain, European countries, Australia, Russia, and many more, maintaining massive exports and imports, and global trade. These good relations are essential for Chinas booming economy and are maintained by the efforts of its Government. Throughout its rise, China has promoted their own term, “Peaceful Rise”, insisting that they do not seek to overthrow any other strong nations or for any major conflicts to arise from their recent growth. This has also been important in maintaining good relationships and peace of mind for other countries.

From the 1950s up until now the country saw 3 reforms in government that drastically helped shape what it is today. The first, when leader Mao Zedong started his decade long Cultural Revolution, was in the mid-1960s, and was the cause of conflict and nearly war between long standing allies, Soviet Union and China, who disputed their border. The second began in the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping sought to reform the whole country, especially the economy. From then until now the government has continued to endeavour to strengthen its economy and grow. To get to its current position of power in the world today, China rose substantially over a relatively short amount of time.

This growth can be credited to three main factors, its economy, its military and its government, and was brought on numerous different aspects within the country. All three of these have been closely connected, linked and often dependant on each other in their growth process to form what China, as a country, is today. One can only assume, after evidence of such a rising from the past, that China will continue to rise and further cement its position in the world as one of the most powerful countries in the world and perhaps even overtake the United States as the most powerful.

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