China and America on Equal Ground During State Visit

On Wednesday, President Obama his hosting is Chinese Contemporary Chairman Hu Jintao at the White House and The People’s Republic of China  seems to have all the cards. From The Guardian key graphs:

The message is absolutely clear – these are the world’s two leading powers meeting together as equals. It is that sense of equal status that distinguishes this Washington summit from earlier such encounters.

In terms of absolute size, China’s economy is catching up fast with America’s, and, according to data compiled by the University of Pennsylvania, may even have overtaken the US at some point over the past year. Militarily, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the biggest on earth: 2.2 million soldiers compared to the 1.6 million of the US armed forces. On the global stage, China has also become a giant too, lending more to developing countries over the past two years than even the World Bank, according to the Financial Times.

But those big figures can be misleading. America is a rich country, while most of China is still grindingly poor.

“The development of our own country remains our top priority,” China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, said. “In terms of per capita GDP, we are still behind over 100 countries.”

When it comes to military might too, there is no doubt that US forces are far better equipped, better trained and more powerful than the PLA. By that ultimate yardstick of superpower status, nuclear weapons, the US far outstrips China. America is estimated to have over 9,000 warheads, deployed or stockpiled. China has about 240.

What puts China on an equal footing with the US, however, is its dynamism. As Obama and Hu meet in Washington, it is the Chinese leader who can realistically claim to have the wind in his sails.

In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion and the global economic recession, the US democratic-capitalist model no longer appears to be such an inevitable global template.

America is recovering and its economy grew by 3% last year, and will probably do the same again in 2011. But China grew by 10% and will only slow marginally this year.

While the US administration is wrestling with a growing debt burden made worse by a huge balance of payments deficit, China’s trade surplus in 2010 was $183bn (£114bn), much of it with the US. In the first half of 2010 it enjoyed a $145bn budget surplus.

The accumulation of vast wealth from selling electrical and electronics goods to the rest of the world has, until recently, been used to buy US government bonds, with the effect of supporting Washington’s need to borrow.

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