Why China will never be Asia’s dominant power

Beijing Railway Station

Beijing Railway Station

China may be Asia’s economic powerhouse but it won’t become the region’s dominant power, according to a new report.

“In examining the factors that go towards the development of Chinese national power-and its ability to use it to achieve national objectives-predictions about a Chinese superpower with the ability to dominate Asia would be premature, if not improbable,” said Paul Dibb and John Lee, authors of the report published by Australian think tank Kokoda Foundation.

The argument that China is already Asia’s pre-eminent power based on its growing economic and military capacities is weak, the authors say. They expect the limitations of China’s economic might, a lack of close bilateral relationships and weak military capability to keep the country from becoming an advanced political-economy that wields influence in the region any time soon.

“China is a dominant power, but it’s not the dominant power in the region or the world. It’s got the economic hardware in place… as a collective country, there’s no denying that it’s an economic and military power,” said Vishnu Varathan, senior economist at Mizuho Bank.

An unproductive economy

China’s gross domestic product growth rate of 7 percent may be a five-year low, but it’s still the envy of most countries. However, experts say declining productivity is one of biggest tell-tale signs that China cannot maintain its current pace of growth.

Furthermore, China will be unable to make the jump from middle-income to high-income status – a requirement for a dominant state- unless it improves the standard of living for citizens, the report added.

Doing so would require the allocation of more government funds to public goods such as social security and unemployment benefits, as well as healthcare, which only constitute 10.5 percent and 6.1 percent of the 2014 budget, respectively.

Exaggerated military power

The defence sector receives the lion’s share of government finances, nearly 15 percent of the 2014 budget, but Dibb and Lee believe China will not become a military superpower until it’s capable of taking decisive action on a global scale.

“Although China has developed potent military capabilities to make it hazardous for U.S. forces to operate in the approaches to China, the fact remains that Beijing could not enforce a full military blockade of Taiwan or attempt a full-scale amphibious invasion of that island,” they wrote.

As a result of territorial disputes with Japan and the majority of Southeast Asia, China has few friends in Asia. A report from the Pew Research Centre earlier this year showed respondents in five out of eight Asian countries had overwhelmingly unfavourable views of China.

This unpopularity undermines Beijing’s influence and capacity to wield power in the region, Dibb and Lee said.

Mizuho’s Varathan agreed. “China doesn’t have the charismatic soft power that Asia’s dominant power ought to have, it is still trying to gain friendships and investments in the region,” he said.

Source: CNBC – Why China won’t be Asia’s dominant power

Categories: Politics & Law

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3 replies


  1. Why China will never be Asia’s dominant power - Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs
  2. China to expand unemployment benefits to lure migrants to cities | China Daily Mail
  3. China argues it’s not really world’s largest economy | China Daily Mail

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