The Chinese Century Is A Myth


Or so claims [pdf] Michael Beckley:

The widespread misperception that China is catching up to the United States stems from a number of analytical flaws, the most common of which is the tendency to draw conclusions about the U.S.-China power balance from data that compare China only to its former self. For example, many studies note that the growth rates of China’s per capita income, value added in high technology industries, and military spending exceed those of the United States and then conclude that China is catching up. This focus on growth rates, however, obscures China’s decline relative to the United States in all of these categories. China’s growth rates are high because its starting point was low. China is rising, but it is not catching up.

His conclusion for American policymakers:

The first step toward sound strategy is to recognize that the status quo for the United States is pretty good: it does not face a hegemonic rival, and the trends favor continued U.S. dominance. The overarching goal of American foreign policy should be to preserve this state of affairs. Declinists claim the United States should “adopt a neomercantilist international economic policy” and “disengage from current alliance commitments in East Asia and Europe.” But the fact that the United States rose relative to China while propping up the world economy and maintaining a hegemonic presence abroad casts doubt on the wisdom of such calls for radical policy change.