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Most Chinese Don’t Believe China is a Superpower: Survey

January 9, 2012


This picture taken on Oct. 24, 2011 shows an elderly man having his lunch in Beijing. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)


A Chinese scholar recently said that China is catching up to the U.S. and is becoming a superpower. But according to a media survey, most Chinese don’t think so.

Yan Xuetong, a professor of political science and dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University said in a Dec. 30 Global Times article that the world is transforming into a stance of “two super, many strong” powers.

“Presently, and in the next five years, only the U.S. and China have defense budgets exceeding US$100 billion. No other country can reach this level. Based on material strength, the ‘one superpower’ world is changing into ‘two superpowers’. Other outcomes are very unlikely,” Yan said.

Statements of China catching up to the U.S. as a superpower are frequently seen in Western media reports, but this is the first time that a Chinese scholar has made such a claim.

Yan received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1992. He is the author of “Ancient Chinese Thought, Modern Chinese Power” and also wrote an op-ed article recently titled, “How China Can Defeat America,” published in the New York Times on Nov. 20, 2011. Yan is well known in mainland China for having studied in the U.S. and for understanding the U.S.

Following Yan’s article in the Global Times, the Global Times conducted a survey between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3, asking people whether they agreed with Yan. Of the 14,705 people responding to the survey, 88 percent said they don’t agree that China is a superpower. Only 7.5 percent said they agree.

The Real China

The Chinese public’s pessimism about China’s rise as a superpower is shared by Chinese intellectuals, who say China lags far behind the U.S. in all social, economic, political, and other areas.

Zhu Xinxin, former editor of Hubei television station, told Sound of Hope (SOH) Radio that Yan is holding to an official [Chinese regime] standpoint, and by looking only at the resources under the regime’s control, it appears as if China can match the U.S.

But the real China is far away from being a superpower, Zhu said. “If gauged from the perspective of soft power and development potential, China is very lacking. From the area of educational quality, to cultural development, to its political system--all these areas are falling far short,” he said.

“China is a totalitarian system, not a democratic system. The Chinese people do not have the right to express themselves. The U.S. is a democratically elected government, with separation of power, with supervision over the elite, the government, and many checks and balances. It represents the world’s most advanced political system and culture. China can’t compare in this regard,” Zhu said.

Chinese Economy Nearing Collapse

Liao Cheng, an economics scholar and freelance writer in Heilongjiang Province, told SOH the gap between China and the U.S. is widening.

“Under Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, they are going backward. The Chinese economy is getting closer and closer to a total collapse, not getting better. The real estate slump, debt crisis, and the aimless expansion initiated by the government, all these are increasingly damaging the country. The Chinese citizens are falling behind the world, falling further and further behind the U.S., not getting closer. It [the Chinese regime] is sacrificing the wealth and health of the entire nation to sustain superficial prosperity,” Liao said.

Chinese author Qiu Lin commented on a blog on Dec. 31, saying: “Just from the economic data it’s obvious that China doesn’t match the superpower title. China is a big nation and is actually a superpower in terms of its population. But while the overall GDP increases, the per capita GDP still ranks around 100th in the world. China is still a developing nation. The development of Beijing and Shanghai can’t represent all of China. China’s economic development is very unbalance with many underdeveloped places in the central and western regions.”


Beijing writer Xu Shaolin said on his Sina microblog: “I think China has been a superpower for a long time: pollution superpower, corruption superpower, toxic food superpower, children not in school superpower, budget to assure stability superpower, misuse of tax payers’ money superpower, number of officials superpower, number of petitioners superpower, and emigration out of the country superpower!


“Just looking at my passport, I can only go to 18 countries without a visa--14 of them are in Africa. Even Hong Kong and Macao require a visa. Ranked bottom third out of 183 countries, only beating North Korea and Pakistan, my pride can’t help but turn into self-pity.”

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