The question whether China will be a “developed nation” by mid-century requires segmentation: As the largest and most populous nation in the world, how do we define “developed? Obviously, China has enormous natural resources, and the labor force to make use thereof. But, if by “developed” one refers to political stability, social order, and both religious and economic order, there are many ifs that require looking at more closely.
To begin with, China is now seen as a priority for both trade and a consumer base for international corporations. Because of its size and potential China also sees itself as the future leader of the Pacific region’s economic growth and perhaps dominance. In this case, the next generation will surely see China and its investors come to grips with the economic strengths of Japan and Taiwan and even to battle with India’s emerging technological industries. But the concerns of today deal more with stability in the coming years than China’s potential. “As it rapidly grows, China has become an international focus of interest today. There is widespread uncertainty or suspicion about the country’s strategic ambition for the future. (One)… notes the existence of a changed Chinese security concept, which seems more pragmatic and accommodating to the outside world…The Chinese concept has consistently relied on a few basic considerations. These elements include China’s external security context, its determination of and self-identification in the world order, and its domestic economic and social stability. The Chinese security vision is not well based on sound theories and models. The country has yet to attain a mature security doctrine in embracing modern norms and regimes…” (Wu 275). The obvious point here becomes whether in the next half century, China’s traditional xenophobia and its security concerns can not only ease, but be eliminated, even as more and more international corporations are both investors in and benefiting from China’s enormous potential.
China, 2050, even with international investments still in place will assert its Asian dominance leading “to a high degree of economic integration within “Greater China” – a development whose significance may prove to be the greatest of all – and a higher degree of regional concentration within the Peoples Republic of China itself. This Asian bias reflects advantages of geography and regional resource complementarity (sic), as well as the internationalization of manufacturing production, which has played such a peculiarly central role in the emergence of “Greater China.” Such advantages are denied to other countries or groupings such as the United States or European Union” (Ash 1). In other words, if China is to be considered, and actually becomes a developed nation by 2050, it will ride to such a success on the basis of its Asian bias. There is no doubt that Asia- all the way from India and Southeast Asia to Taiwan and Japan will be the primary focus of growth and economic dominance, with a developed China as its acknowledged leader (even if such acknowledgment is grudgingly provided).
One area of concern today that surely will play a larger role heading toward 2050 is China’s increasing dependence on oil, which, at this point, it has none within its borders. “China’s oil needs are expected to more than double over the next two decades to just over 14 million barrels per day, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration projections – roughly two- thirds of current U.S. consumption” (Marshall A 1). So, where will China turn? Currently, it is dealing with Iran (part of Bush’s “axis of evil”). Will China’s oil supplies be in line with nations more closely allied to U.S. interests? And if not, how will this be seen as a political and economic “brush-off” to U.S. priorities in Asia? It may be simplistic to say so, but if China 2050 is to be a developed instead of a developing nation, it cannot necessarily play to Uncle Sam’s tune. China’s Asian dominance must come from its ability to go one-on-one with Western interests and not give in to American or EU interests.
In the segmentation of defining China s a fully developed nation at mid-century, we can never overlook its political status- that of a Communist nation with no view toward reducing central governmental controls over nearly everything. “Chinese politics rarely announces fully fledged designs for future reform in the sense of a deviation from the existing ideology; for example, it avoids the term privatization in spite of several waves of privatization running across the country and in spite of huge pockets of almost free enterprise economies on the Chinese mainland… As a result, many Western observers allege a cynical and hypocritical political attitude on the part of the Chinese leadership who uphold socialist rule over a crude capitalistic society with crumbling or nonexistent social security and cut-throat competition on the labor market. From the viewpoint of economic analysis, this gap between ideology and reality seems to cause severe problems for anticipating government action and, hence, may lead to increasing uncertainty” (Herrmann-Pillath 549).
The power of the Communist government in its stranglehold on the daily lives of its citizens faces some serious internal economic and social problems from now until 2050. For example, “There are more than 100 million people who comprise what is described as a “floating population” – rural Chinese who have migrated to the cities in search of employment…Widespread unemployment, due in large part to several decades of economic reforms, is expected to be an issue in China for some time to come, as is the problem of pollution caused by rapid industrialization… (Anon. 3)
However, it is obvious that any change in the government will be limited to, or influence by, the economic growth of China: “‘If economic growth is reasonably robust, then you’ll gradually get political change,’ said Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, at the TIME forum. ‘But if you don’t have economic growth in China, then the prospects of moving in a more democratic, more pluralistic direction are much more limited'” (Anon 5).
The West, obviously, sees “democracy” or a form thereof, as the basis for considering China a fully developed nation by mid-century. Chances are dim, because the young Chinese tend to have other priorities than a change in their government: “Young Chinese, in particular, say they are more concerned with pursuing careers than multiparty democracy, which they see as a distant prospect. Many students and other Chinese now view the 1989 protests as naive and its leaders as uncompromising… This development has led some observers to wonder if China will have a liberal democracy any time soon, and speculation has inclined toward pessimism. Skeptics point out that Chinese authoritarianism has endured for millennia, and that China has repeatedly resisted the shifting tides of modern world history” (Zhao 4).
What this research has shown is that, essentially, the true status of The People’s Republic Cof China in 2050 is more guesswork than reality. Chances are economic growth will continue, and that China’s dependence on foreign oil and foodstuffs will increase and that the priorities for upwardly mobile Chinese will be economic benefits rather than political change.
Ash, Robert F.: “Mainland China’s Emerging Role In the World’s Economy: Implications and Future Prospects” Issues & Studies [Taiwan) (1995) Vol. 31, Issue 1.
Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten: “Cultural Species and Institutional Change in China” Journal of Economic Issues, Sept. 2006 Vol. 40, issue
Marshall, Tyler: “The Price of Asia’s Growth; The U.S. is no longer the sole power that many nations look to for trade and protection” Los Angeles TIMES, Nov. 6, 2005
Wu, Baiyi: “The Chinese Security Concept and its Historical Evolution” Journal of Contemporary China (Great Britain) (2001) Vol. 10, issue 27.
Zhao, Suisheng: “Liberalization in China and the prospects for democracy” (2001) TIME, Asiaweek, www. CNN.com
No author listed: “China at 2050” (2001) TIME, Asiaweek, www. CNN.com