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Is it inevitable that China will be the next world superpower?

In global politics, it is quite difficult to claim anything is inevitable. In short, I do not think they China will be the next superpower in the world, and I do not think there will be a successor superpower to the United States. Before I explain my reasoning, I would like to define what I mean by a superpower. A super power is a country with the greatest or nearly the greatest economic, political, and military power in the world. This country has the ability to project vast military power anywhere in the world, and it has the ability to influence global politics in its favor. With that out of the way, I’ll explain why the US qualifies as a super power.

The first ship is a Wasp Class amphibious assault ship operated the USMC. It had a displacement of 40000 long tons, and it can hold up to 20 F-35b multi-role fighter aircraft. Usually it would carry 6 and a number of helicopters. Additionally, it can carry 61 AAV 7 amphibious assault vehicles, 5 M1 Abrams tanks, eight M198 howitzers, 68 trucks, 12 miscellaneous support vehicles, and 1894 marines: along with every thing needed to keep these marines supplied for a long time. The Marine Corps has 8 of these, and ships of a newer class are currently being built. Just using these 8 ships, the marine corps can potentially land up to 15,152 marines, 40 tanks, and hundreds of other vehicles. Along side this is a complement of up to 160 of the some of the most capable fighter aircraft ever built. This is not the largest military force, but no one can doubt it’s potency. As an aside, though the F-35 has had its problems, it’s still far more capable than anything China or Russia has, and AV-8B Harrier 2 fighter/attack aircraft can take their place on the wasps; even the Harrier 2 is an extremely capable platform despite its age.

The second ship this the USS Enterprise. It has a displacement of around 95000 tons, it has 8 nuclear reactors, and it is the longest naval vessel ever fielded. It can carry 90 aircraft; this means F-35C’s, F/A-18 super hornets, EA-18G growler electronic warfare aircraft, E-2 C and D early warning aircraft, C-2 greyhounds, and a myriad of helicopters. It is an incredibly powerful and amazing vessel that would be the pride of almost any navy. The USN retired it 4 years ago, because we have 2 generations of newer and product improved carriers. It should be noted that, while the USS enterprise was retired, it would still be a perfectly functional ship in the modern day. In fact she is peerless among the other navies of the world. The carriers that replaced Enterprise have a similar complement of aircraft and there are 11 of them in the USN. This gives the navy the ability to have nearly 1000 aircraft operational anywhere in the world, including several hundred F-35C’s, which again, are far superior to any plane currently in Chinese or Russian service.

The third ship is the Chinese Type 001 carrier Liaoning. It had a displacement of 55,000 tons in standard operations. It had a ski-jump launch for its aircraft, and it can carry 26 J-15 fighter aircraft, and 40 helicopters. I neglected to mention earlier that US carriers use a catapult to launch aircraft. This method allows heavier aircraft to be carrier launched than a ski jump launch. This means that it cannot carry early warning or electronic warfare craft. They have a slightly more modern carrier of a similar role in sea trials, and two flat top catapult equipped carriers in construction. These will be 85000 tons, and it is unknown how large their complement of aircraft will be. All are conventionally powered. A type 003 that is nuclear power is said to be in development. By the end of the 2020’s China may have 8 carriers: all of which will likely have capabilities inferior to enterprise. There are a few extra thing that are worth mentioning. First the Liaoning and probably the Type 001A only have a range of 3500 nmi which is crippling: it means that it cannot be sailed to every location in the world with great ease; whereas, the wasps have a range of 9500 miles, which is much more tenable. Second, the J-15 is an adequate fighter, but it doesn’t compare to US carrier strike fighters; also it likely cannot carry a full load from the Liaoning due to the ski-jump launch method. Third, China may have plans to field stealth fighters on their carriers, but that is far off, and they likely won’t be as capable as the F-35. Last and most important, China’s aircraft carrier operations are very green; they have little experience compared to the US: who has been operating carriers since the 1922.

With the previous paragraphs in mind, it can be clearly seen that aspects of the Chinese military are disadvantaged to the US. In almost all other respects, the US military is superior to China’s and, honestly, every one else’s. This is largely due to the US armed services having a larger budgets than the next several nations combined. Alas, I am getting sidetracked, I am first proving that the US is a superpower. Militarily, it can be clearly seen in such things as the Aircraft Carrier fleet and B-2 bombers that the US can project power anywhere in the world. Economically, it is pretty easy to see that the US qualifies as a super power. Since the end of the Second World War, the US has been the largest economy in the world, by far. In recent years, the US GDP at 19 trillion is ahead of the next largest economy’s GDP, China’s GDP, by more than 7 trillion dollars. Another point in favor of the US having vast economic influence is that when the US economy had its housing market collapse in 2007, the global economy had its worst recession since the Great Depression. It can be claimed that this could be coincidental, but many sources agree that the Great Recession stemmed mostly from the US real estate market collapse. Another point in favor of the US’s global economic influence is that whole economies are built from trade with the US. Consider China. They reported a trade surplus with the US in 2018 of 323.3 billion dollars; China’s global export surplus was 352 billion. It can be seen that the majority of the the Chinese export market is based off of trade with the US. If you removed the US from the world overnight, the Chinese export economy would fail. Using these points as a basis, it can be seen that the US economy has massive global influence. Politically, the US is hugely influential, and a microcosm of this is the Cold War. The US was the largest influencer of western policy in the world. The western nations followed US lead in world policy. After the Cold War, this influence continues in a similar fashion, although slightly diminished. I will let the reader do research into this, because the answer in already long enough.

It should be evident from the information I presented, and the little bit of research you’ve hopefully done, that the US is a superpower. In order for the China to become a superpower, it would need at least near parity in all three of these areas. Let’s investigate this. We will begin with economic parity. As others have mentioned, the Chinese economy will surpass the US economy by 2030: barring unusual circumstances, because it is growing faster. It already exports more materials and services than any other country. It looks like China will succeed the United States as a superpower in that respect. Militarily, it doesn’t look quite as plausible. China plans on building another 6 carriers by 2030, for a total of 8. These will be huge in allowing China to project its power, but these carriers simply won’t be as capable as US carriers. At most they will approach the capability of Enterprise as a total. Additionally, the Chinese armed forces are not as well equipped, trained, or led as US forces by a long shot. Their vehicles are excellent, but not as excellent as the US’s equipment. A good microcosm is the F-22. I don’t remember where, but I heard a debatably apocryphal story in which a raptor pilot said that the F-22 could outfight god. The F-22 is undoubtedly the best fighter aircraft in the world. Nothing China has or will have in the near future can compare. Another microcosm is the B-2 spirit. It can drop thousands of pounds anywhere in the world without anyone knowing until they were bombed. It’s a great plane, and it is being replaced. No one else has this capability. China might have something similar in a few years, but not to the same degree. China will not surpass the US militarily in the foreseeable future. I doubt it will even achieve near parity: the US has been in the business of fighting wars for over 100 years, and their military budget is massive. China simply doesn’t have the military budget or experience to overtake the US militarily. Even with the vast distance, if a total, non-nuclear war emerged between the US and China tomorrow, the US would beat the Chinese into submission. Within hours, the Chinese governmental building would be rubble, their surface fleet would be ruined, and most of their assets would be under attack. The US wouldn’t be safe, but it wouldn’t be nearly as ruined as China. Their economy would collapse, and they would not be able to replace their assets the same way the US would be able to. Especially, because the US army would swell to unimaginable sizes in months: for example, I personally would join the air force as an officer in such a war, because it is my duty to my country.

Politically, things are much harder to gauge. The US is losing global power for now, but you never know how that will change with the next administration. The same applies to China, they are gaining global political power, but that could change in 4 years. I predict that several powers in the world will eventually reach an equilibrium in global political power, and no single one will have enough political power to qualify as a superpower in that regard. All in all, I don’t think the US will have a successor superpower: I think that the world will evolve into fractional superpowers. For example, the US might have the most military power while China has the most economic power and while India has the most political power. History had shown us that there are brief periods of vast and powerful empires, followed by periods of nearly equal power among many countries. This is how I think the world will evolve, unless the aforementioned war with China happens. If that happens, I think it’s going be a world affair, and I don’t think the US will lose. In other words, I think the US will emerge victorious, and it will be remain the world superpower for a bit longer: or the nuclear holocaust will happen, in which case, who cares about world politics.

Thanks for reading

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