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Externally, as well, China faces a number of containing factors in its rise to “superpower” status.For one, the world’s current “superpower,” the United States, is far from waning in hegemony to such a degree that it will be “replaced” by China; through decades of eminence and leadership in international political, economic, and military organizations, the United States has entrenched itself as a global power and hegemon for at least decades to come.While China is undoubtedly the most rapidly rising power in the world today, and indeed may soon come to pose a distinct challenge to American hegemony in the Asia-Pacific, it is far from becoming the world’s next “superpower” as defined by the American construction of the term.
Though China’s economy has experienced unprecedented rates of growth over the last decade, this growth cannot continue indefinitely, and is already beginning to show signs of waning.
Not only does this present a political issue to the Chinese Communist Party, which has premised much of its legitimacy upon producing economic results, but could also forestall the internal and external development which powers China’s rise.
Increasing military budgets and a major military modernization campaign is transforming the Chinese military into a first-rate, formidable 21st century force.
China’s longstanding nuclear arsenal and UN Security Council seat already places it into the club of top powers, while China’s increasingly sophisticated space program, which is only the 3rd to place humans into Earth orbit, places it alongside history’s most recent “superpowers,” the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia.
Additionally, China’s involvement and leadership in international and intergovernmental organizations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, demonstrates that China wishes to legitimize itself as a capable, responsible international leader.
Outside of these tangible measurements of “power” and “hegemony,” the Chinese themselves are seeing China as an emerging top power.
Again, China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and China’s rhetorical foreign policy position of non-interference and peaceful cooperation, which seeks to redefine the norms for and codes of conduct of the international community, are indicators of the Chinese not only seeking to play a crucial and defining role in the 21st international community, but believing that they can.
Yet while these metrics might point to a meteoric rise to global eminence for China, a number of internal factors present distinct challenges to China’s future stability, and thereby curtail China’s ability to sustain its ascent.
While these movements are today largely contained and undermined by China’s continued economic prosperity, they represent a distinct future challenge to the Communist Party should things go unchanged.
Dealing with political reforms, or facing the consequences emergent from a lack of reforms, will present the Communist Party with a challenge the significance of which it has perhaps not faced before, and the manner by which the Chinese government handles future political issues could significantly hamper China’s position and prestige on the global stage.