Can China Really Eclipse the US as the World’s Top Superpower?

Can China Really Eclipse the US as the World’s Top Superpower?
Jul 30, 2013 Translated by

Editors note: this article was translated and edited from a post written by the Chinese edition of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and appeared on In light of the recent revelations regarding a study by the Pew Research Center, the article questions whether China can really become the world’s number one superpower even if its economy does overtake America’s. The article cites China’s declining international image and influence as a preventing factor and contrasts it with the consistent preferences to the US held by many countries across the world. The article references various recent events that have affected China’s popularity as well as its staggering gap between the rich and poor and expresses doubt over whether China will ever truly eclipse America as the world’s top superpower.

According to the results of a survey done by US think tank organization the Pew Research Center which were released on July 18, more and more people believe that China will eclipse the US as the world’s number one superpower. Although the survey showed that most people in the 22 out of the 39 countries surveyed believed America was still the number one economic superpower, participants quizzed in Canada, the UK, Germany and France all stated that they thought China was catching up fast. One of the most shocking findings of the survey was that when asked which of the two countries had the biggest economy, 44% of American participants thought that China had the biggest economy while only 39% believed America was still on top. Despite this shift in opinions however, many people who were quizzed did express a clear preference to America over China, citing various cultural and economical factors as their reasons for this. This goes on to cast doubt over whether China will ever truly eclipse America as the world’s number one superpower regardless of its economic growth.

Photo: Ifeng

The gap between rich and poor

At the same time that the Pew report was released, details of a study by Peking University about the wealth gap in China was published. The report showed that compared to the US, the gap between the rich and the poor in China was much larger. The Southern Metropolis Daily, which published the details of the report, also reiterated that income disparity was also a major factor in determining the economic differences between the US and China. At the end of 2012, annual income for the poorest 5% of China’s households accounted for only 0.1% of the country’s total household income. In contrast, annual income for the top 5% of China’s high-earning families accounted for a staggering 23.4% of the national figure, 234 times greater than the annual household income generated from the aforementioned lower-end families.

Considering facts such as the these, the Pew report showed that when asked on whether or not they had a “positive feeling” towards the two countries, 63% said yes to America, while only 50% said the same for China. Despite there being a recent current of increased anti-American sentiment across the world in recent years, the US still scored higher marks than China regarding its popularity, which many have put down to the notion that the US government respects its citizen’s individual freedom.    

Experts: China won’t overtake America in every aspect

Many economists believe that within the next few years, China will only eclipse the US in terms of the size of its economy. Many have expressed doubt regarding whether or not China can overtake America in terms of its cultural, diplomatic and economic influence on the rest of the world. The Pew Research Center found that in developing countries in Latin America and Africa (where China has a notable economic presence), participants of the survey explained that while they respected China’s technological progress, they had little interest in its music and cinema. China’s image in Europe has seen a steady decrease in the last few years, with positive opinions towards the country dropping by 11% and 9% in the UK and France alone. Analysts believe that this is due to worries regarding China’s increasing presence as an international business competitor as well as China’s supposed unilateral approach to foreign affairs involving Europe.   

Regarding their positive feelings towards the US, Greece was the only EU country where more than half its citizens stated they had a stronger liking for China, though even countries which had previously shown a liking towards China displayed negative patterns regarding their view of the country. Positive opinions towards China in Egypt dropped from 57% to 45% following Pew’s study, though the figure is still a lot higher than preference towards America in the North African country, with only an average of 16% saying they prefer the US over China. 

Recent political events also a factor

The Pew Research Center report showed that there were large contrasts between how different countries viewed China and America. Only 11% of those quizzed in Pakistan, who largely see China as their main allies, said they preferred the US to China; a stark contrast to the 81% who said they had a positive view of China. Despite this however, many of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region showed almost unrivalled support towards America. Although two thirds of Australians quizzed said that they believed China would overtake the US as the world’s top superpower, only an average of one third asked in Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines said the same. Recent strains in bilateral relations with neighboring countries is seen as one of the catalysts towards China’s bad reputation in the area, with only 5% of Japanese people asked saying they had a good impression of China. Additionally, 90% of Japanese people surveyed believe that China’s increasing military strength is a bad thing; a number that is only eclipsed by South Korea, where 91% also expressed this concern.

One thing which should perhaps be noted is that the survey was carried out between March and April 2013, which was before the eruption of significant recent world events such as the Edward Snowden saga and the military coup in Egypt. From this, one can conclude that current affairs deeply affect a country’s international reputation. However, regardless of China’s economic progress, it does seem that it has a long way to go in order to truly overtake America as the world’s top superpower.

Source: Ifeng

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Keywords: China’s popularity China overtake America world’s top superpower


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The U. S. is pretty rigged up, but China....

Jun 27, 2015 06:18 Report Abuse



This whole argument is funny. Look, the USA is going to become the world's largest oil exporting country by about 2015-2017, so the US economy is set to explode. When Americans are paying $1.50/4 liters of gasoline and the industry returns there (plastic manufacturing, new oil jobs, etc.) there is no way China could catch up, especially when the US is dictating oil prices and China is buying from the US.

Aug 13, 2013 18:24 Report Abuse



China has long eclipsed the rotten and self-destroyed paper tiger called usa. Only a delusional anticommunist can still go around repeating the old mantra of self-engranding so aggressively promoted by the nazist concentration camp.

Aug 09, 2013 18:14 Report Abuse



I find this stuff funny because it's based on polls of what average people think. I don't mean to insult average people - I am an average person. But I am also someone that freely admits I have little to no understanding of global economics and international politics. And if most are honest, nor do they. Everyone has an opinion of course but the opinion of someone that knows next-to-nothing about a topic is more or less worthless. An opinion like that is usually formed from hearsay, and when it really comes down to it most people are just repeating the words of uncle Bob. Another example might be geography, everyone has an opinion on that right? Like where iraq is! ( ) And one of the quotes I particularly like from that story is "Only 50 percent of the kids could find New York State on a map of the United States". Datz bad. So if nobody knows or cares where anything outside (or even inside) of America is, why is everyone's opinion suddenly important when it comes to the global economy, was geography just a weak area? Me think not. I realize of course that the point of this article is about the fact that China perhaps cannot eclipse the US as the Top Superpower for various reasons (cultural influence - come on). It just worries me that people would feel the need to point out that China might actually not eclipse America based on the assumption that it absolutely will, such prediction being part of the incontrovertible proof of public opinion (which is basically rumour and assumption). I for one don't care what the public think. I've found all too often in the past that predictions based on rumour rather than fact mean very little.

Aug 03, 2013 20:39 Report Abuse



I probably won't bother replying to you again, if your comments make this much sense I certainly won't, but you took part of my sentence out of context. Not entirely sure you understood what I wrote. For example, I wasn't saying that facts mean little but that predictions based on rumour mean little.

Aug 03, 2013 22:11 Report Abuse


IMPOSSIBLE! They artificially maintain their currency and without allowing it to float freely as all other major currency do, they will never be able to do this. Truth is they buy up much USD to legitimize their own currency and bully USA into using RMB too. They bullied their way in to the currency market, WTO, WHO and play by their own rules and the rest of the world will not jump to the RMB....sorry this is a fantasy...though China is strong and needed partner it can not gain the trust of the rest of the world as long as they can not be seen as honest, transparent, and stable...Acceptance of the RMB is necessary evil for good trade.

Aug 02, 2013 17:45 Report Abuse



Yes they can and will. The US and many nations are in debt up to their eye balls. The economies of the world are being skaken. Another Great Depression can and will happen anytime. God has been raising up China and many Asian nations for years for two reasons. Number 1, more and more Chinese are turning to Jesus. While in America and Euroupe we have become reprobates. Currently, there is an estimated 400 million Chinese who are Christians. Second reason, is to fullfill the end times prophecy of the Kings of the East. Nations like China, Japan and other Asian nations must be raised up to fullfill those prophecies. In order for China to be part of the army of 200 million economic and millitary conditions must improve rapidly.

Aug 02, 2013 17:38 Report Abuse



China is a a beautiful country and i have met good people,most points written above are true however and for them to achieve a real position as world leader it goes down to the core ethics which have to be imparted in the younger generation,simple things like tossing trash in a waste bin......and so on and so forth

Aug 02, 2013 16:17 Report Abuse



For every criticism, China is a beautiful country with wonderful people. America has tons of problems as well but the good still far outweighs the bad. Still, after 16 months in China and SE Asia, the air in Washington, DC is so clean I can almost taste it. And so few people it seems, even in the city, in such a big country.

Aug 02, 2013 08:46 Report Abuse



Big, modern, Western-based supermarkets like Tesco and Carrefour pay their cashiers less than 1000 RMB/month and have them stand all day, 60 hours a week. The janitor at school, who is also the nightwatch, earns less than 1000 RMB/month. The woman who massages my feet makes less than 1000 RMB/month. The seamstress around the corner has an 8-y.o. son and her husband has left her. She makes less than 1000 RMB/month. The ladies cleaning the stairwell in my block make less than 1000 RMB/month. They rummage around in the garbage cans as a sidejob. A BMW is parked next to it. This is the city. These people don't have to worry about a mortgage. In the countryside, some people live in houses that resemble the barn back home, but I would fire my gardener if he left it looking like that. They grow their own fuel, the dried plants that remain after harvesting the corn. No central heating there, and sometimes not even double-paned windows. Bad luck: the heap of dried plants somehow self-ignited, so no fuel this winter. Bad luck: a parasite ate the corn and the harvest is less than half of what was expected. Bad luck: the old man's had a stroke and got paralyzed on his right side, so we'll have to take care of him till he's rotten away. The younger generation moves to the city and ends up working on construction sites with its inherent sexual problems or moving stuff around on those peculiar manpower-driven tricycles, obstructing the roads. All together, China may be or become richer than any other country, but with the largest population by far and an overwhelming amount of social problems, that still is no reason for China to beat its chest.

Jul 30, 2013 10:03 Report Abuse



where do toy live? in Hangzhou supermarket workers get paid around 1800-2300 per month, they have 1 full day working then 1 full day off, they have a seat should they choose to use it. Agreed with the farmers not having double paned windows, but hell, in 5 years here I also have never had them. also farmers practice slash and burn (they dont save the scraps for winter fuel, they burn it on the field to put some nutrients back into the ground). Heating?? what heating, why do you think chinese people ware jackets inside? the farmers may have a heated blanket or a hot water bottle, but other wise they dont heat their houses (why should they, if they pay to heat it it will just get cold again. It doesnt compute in the eyes of the farmer). Or to a large extent to most chinese people here (especially school principals) In the west you take off your jacket when you enter a house, and put it on when you leave because a house is kept hot, in china, you take off the jacket to sleep in a bed with 2 duvets and 3 blankets. They grow rice, dry it on the streets and sell it off and buy rice that has been de-shelled already, most tend not to store food but buy it as and when they need it. the seasons are just right so the farmers can grow rice, wheat and cotton each year on the same field. As the world load is so little while farming the farmers also pick us other jobs some times like building in near by towns (50-100 rmb a day) but often they dont work so sit around and gamble with friends and family. (my wife is from the farm yards of Anhui).

Jul 30, 2013 15:09 Report Abuse



Lightend, Not everywhere in China, they don't. Trust me. Vyborg is right. Well written and good points made.

Jul 31, 2013 00:19 Report Abuse



China has no "friends" and consequently no allies. As is mentioned in the article, even smaller countries that could benefit from having a relationship with China - choose not too. And this is an important factor. A country disliked by others to such an extent will have a hard time being a leader. And if we think long-term - China has no technology or research in stock to support its growth. Yes, they can copy. But their short-term vision towards technological development will definitely hinder their growth in the future. China is also getting more expensive. More and more countries move their purchasing to Vietnam or Cambodia. This is why China is trying hard to develop their internal market. But realistically, they have very limited number of people in the middle class. And a lot of economists agree they may not be able to develop their local market in time. And, to be honest, knowing Chinese mentality it is very hard to see them as the world leader. They are just too different. And while they are really good at following orders, taking initiative is a very weak point here. I see China as a world leader..No. But this is just an opinion.

Jul 30, 2013 09:05 Report Abuse



I agree with you that China doesn't any friends, but maybe North Korea. Any other country either hate or is jealous of their our economy. I disagree with you that we don't have any innovations. Innovation is all about money. Japan used to copy cars and now they have become a fierce competitor in the auto industry. You need to copy first before you can innovate. China has been copying for years now and with money coming in we definitely invest in innovation and there is no doubt we are going to dominate the tech industry soon. Look at QQ or Weixin, facebook is a joke compared to Weixin, Weixin is a much better platform, Facebook made what? 40 mil in profit? Tencent made like 2 billion? Napoleon once said, don't wake the sleeping giant. Chinese may not be popular now and it may take another generation to change. 10 years ago, I thought nobody would adapt to speak Chinese, now? It's pretty standard foreigners speak very good Chinese. It may not be a popular language but if you have to, then you have to learn it. Who likes basketball except for the US, does the US care? NO.

Jul 30, 2013 10:31 Report Abuse



The idea that "innovation is all about money" is exactly the short term strategy I meant. Innovation is about investing in ideas that can prove useable decades from now. But in China most companies care about getting the profit right now. As fot Weixin and Facebook comparison, how many people use Weixin outside China? Right. None. And it can make moneu only under the protection of Chinese firewall when 1.3 billion people have no access to any other social media. The rest of the world uses Facebook. Why doesnt this superior)) Weixin technology catch on?

Jul 30, 2013 14:11 Report Abuse



Innovation is extremely important. Chuckberry did make a good point about modeling your business after an already existing successful business, such as Japan. In the US we have the phrase, "Fake it till you make it." However, it still requires innovation at some point in the future, some kind of competitive advantage that sets you apart from your rivals. Right now, I really don't see a winning strategy being developed in China that will ensure its sustainable success. I mean, they've got a shot with a "cost leadership" strategy, where they can continue to make substandard products for really cheap. However, Chinese companies have a huge problem with being able to venture out on their own. They wait for the rest of the world to CREATE, and then they are quick to copy. The only reason why China is booming right now is because they DON'T obey international copyright and intellectual property laws. However, everyone who knows how to classify developing nations from developed ones, also knows that a developed political and legal system is necessary in order for China to really step up onto the platform of a developed nation status like the rest of us. What am I implying? Simply, that China will not usurp the developed West until they get their own house in order. First step would be battling corruption and enforcing the laws that are already written. Second step would be to reform their labor laws. Most importantly, they need to invest in their future by creating an education system that is free of plagiarism, paying for grades and all around cheating. That's the root of the problem. Cheating is inherent in Chinese culture.

Aug 02, 2013 21:42 Report Abuse



Innovation is not about money only. It's about ideas.

Aug 27, 2013 10:43 Report Abuse



From my experience with mainland Chinese the latest, university educated young generation (the post 90s), excluding most of the fu-er-dai (spoiled, rotten wealthy 2nd generations)that is, is just about the only hope China has. Actually had dinner with such a group last evening, they were well aware of the uglyiness, lack of manners behaviors of the older generations. Some said when they went out with their parents, they taught them not to throw garbbage everywhere they went. This is probably part of what they have come to do and I certainly wish them every success in this regard.

Oct 13, 2013 14:35 Report Abuse