I am usually not interested in trying to divine whether or not China is going to become a superpower. My lack of interest stems both from the inherent vagueness of the term “superpower” and from the fact that all such predictions are based on today’s facts, rather than on some supernatural ability to predict the future. Having thrown out these caveats, I have to admit there is a really interesting and thoughtful “debate” going on right now between John Pomfret (whose knowledge of China I greatly respect) and the China Comment blog (whose knowledge of China I also greatly respect.
Pomfret is in the China will not be a superpower corner, while China Comment says it will. Pomfret puts forth his views in a recent Washington Post article, entitled, “A Long Wait at the Gate to Greatness” and China Comment rebuts them in a post, entitled, “A Weak China?”
What I see as important is not so much their positions on the will it or won’t it issue, but rather their excellent analysis of China’s situation today and how that situation may shape its future. Greatly simplified, Pomfret and China Comment disagree on the following:
Demographics. Pomfret says China’s demographic situation is dire. China Comment says China’s labor force has plenty of room to expand.
The Economy. Pomfret says it is overrated. China Comment says look at purchasing power growth.
The Environment. Pomfret says it is bad. China Comment says it can improve.
Ideology. Pomfret says China has none. China Comment says China is in the process of developing its mission.
The glass is both half full and half empty and both are worth a read.