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Column: Wake-up call: China, India emerging as rivals of U.S.


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Two decades ago, Japan was seen as the main rival to the United States, but due to various reasons, it never happened. Like many other Western nations, Japan has suffered drastic decline.

Today, there are two new challengers to American dominance — China and India. Scholars and think tanks around the world have been paying significant attention to this development. Unfortunately, we are still living in the past and continue to believe that we are

No. 1 in every aspect. The purpose of this column is to serve as a wake-up call to this reality.

In the theory of international politics, national power exists not in absolute terms but in relative terms. One country’s power is another country’s threat.

To better understand this concept, let’s consider a measurement of national power. National power can be divided into two elements, tangible and intangible. Tangible elements are those which can be measured quantitatively, such as population, territory, economy and military. Intangible elements are things that cannot be measured quantitatively, such as patriotism, national pride and spirit, national character, quality of leadership and type of government. This column will primarily focus on the tangible elements.

Population: China is the most populous country in the world. Currently, China’s population is 1.4 billion. India has the second-largest population of 1.2 billion. China and India have 40 percent of the world’s population. By 2040, India is expected to have a population of 1.52 billion, while China’s will be 1.45 billion. In contrast, the U.S. population is almost 314 million.

Territory: In terms of territory, China is the third-largest country behind Russia and Canada. India is the seventh-largest and about one-third the size of the United States. Both China and India possess great natural resources.

Economy: Both the Chinese and Indian GDP (gross domestic product, the market value of all goods and service produced within a country in a given period) per capita remain much lower than the United States. However, both have sustained long periods of rapid growth.

Based on the International Monetary Fund, China’s GDP growth rate between 2001 to 2010 was 10.5 percent, while India’s was 7.5 percent. Both countries’ growth rates were much higher than the growth rate for the United States or Japan. Based on various studies, China is now the world’s largest exporter and second largest importer and possesses the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves. India has the ninth-largest foreign exchange reserves. In contrast, the United States has the 17th-largest.

Military: China and India have the two largest military forces in the world. With 2.3 million soldiers, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest military force in the world. Furthermore, both are considered advanced nuclear weapon states and as such are considered not only a major regional military powers but also as potential military superpowers.

One method of measuring military capability is military spending. Based on a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, China’s defense budget in 2011 was estimated to be approximately $142 billion. This

accounts for 40 percent of the

$355 billion total military spending in Asia. India is the second-largest spender in Asia.

U.S. military spending was

$750 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011, according to the U.S. Treasury annual report.

In addition to the four tangible elements used to measure national power, there is another important development that deserves our attention, religion. In the United States, religion influences aspects of our everyday life — education, marriage, abortion. Recently it has even entered our political discussions, both at the state and federal levels.

While many Americans still debate evolution versus creation, the Chinese, Indians and many other Asian countries are totally and completely devoted to scientific studies.

Most of the students in China and India want to be scientists or engineers. According to a report from the National Science Foundation, China and India produced more scientists and engineers than all other countries combined. Almost 60 percent of all foreign graduate students in the United States in 2010 were enrolled in either science or engineering graduate programs. The numbers of foreign students studying in the United States continues to grow steadily each year.

Science and technology are changing the world in profound ways. The rest of the world has welcomed and embraces these changes. Unfortunately, the same is not true here in the United States. An excellent discussion of this phenomenon can be found in Al Gore’s new book “The Future.”

As stated earlier, power does not exist in absolute terms, it exists in only relative terms. The immediate impact of the rising power of China and India will shake global order. As the only superpower today, the United States has a huge target on its back.

These emerging powers do not see eye to eye. Each has different aspirations and goals. In 1962, China and India were at war, casting a dark shadow over their relationship. Even today, the two countries have disputes over their borders.

Stay tuned. Sooner or later, the crouching tiger and the hidden dragon will play a more active role on the world stage.

Professor Yu-long Ling, a Franklin resident, is an expert in foreign policy. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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