Alternative Insight

The End of American Dominance?
A Modern China Rises

The U.S. administration has no apparent program to combat China's challenge to American dominance.

During the XV century, the Ming dynasty in China reached its highest power. The Chinese fleet, which contained the largest and most powerful warships in the world, sailed from its adjacent seas and across the Indian ocean to the East coast of Africa. China was a supreme power and had an opportunity to use its massive fleet to control many other parts of the world. In 1433, the Ming dynasty suddenly halted its maritime expeditions. Historians debate the reasons for this rash decision. The more accepted explanation has conservative Chinese officials of that time concluding that expansion and commercial ventures contradicted Chinese concepts for governing a nation. The stability of the Ming dynasty, which had no major disruptions in a population estimated at 100 million, promoted a belief among the Chinese that they had achieved the most satisfactory civilization and didn't need anything foreign, including foreigners.

Without a powerful fleet, the later Qing rulers of China could not restrain the western traders, missionaries and soldiers of fortune that began to arrive in the coastal cities. The empire's inability to respond to the new challenges brought the demise of the Qing. The ancient framework of Chinese dynastic rule collapsed.

The post-WWII Chinese governments repeated many of their ancestors' policies. They reconquered territory in border areas that the Manchus and Qing dynasty had incorporated into China in the XVI and XVII centuries, areas such as Xizang, that is now called Tibet. They enforced the neo-Confucian philosophy that emphasized obedience of subject to ruler. They continued the policies of becoming deeply involved in foreign matters and engaging others only when China could benefit from the engagement. They had no favorites. Despite a close similarity in ideology, political structure and social pursuits to other Communist nations, during the last decades of the twentieth century China had border skirmishes with the Soviet Union and the Republic of Viet Nam, halted trade with Cuba, reduced trade with North Korea, and subtly divorced itself from Cold War happenings.

The modern Chinese government has retreated from one significant imperial policy. Unlike its ancestral dynasties, it has concluded that foreign contact could be useful. Chinese leaders realize that an attempt to challenge U.S. military power could lead it to a similar condition of the former Soviet Union - total collapse. With proper diplomacy China can neutralize an American military threat. The China Trade Bill, that permanently guarantees Chinese goods low tariff access to and makes China agree to low tariffs, open its markets to U.S. products and assists China in fulfilling its diplomatic objectives.

China has sufficient technology and capability to develop itself into a modern industrial powerhouse, equal to the western nations. It might take time, but China has time. It could seek support from other advanced nations, such as Japan, France and Germany. It could end run the United States. Yet, it has sought to economically engage itself with the United States. The reasons are obvious:

With the trade arrangements permanently guaranteed, the United States industrial-military complex will promote huge investments in China. The capital suppliers will be forced to protect their investments and therefore indirectly protect China. Chinese manufacturers, ranging from airplane and auto parts to clothes, sporting goods, and toys, that have wages, prices and currency that are easily manipulated by a totalitarian government, will flood the world and drive out other manufacturers. The U.S. will eventually become dependent on China for its basic imports. Meanwhile, American industry will be forced to respond to the huge Chinese market. American exports of its surplus goods will depend on China's capability to import those goods. Profits of American industries will be related to Chinese willingness to support the U.S. exports. Although the trade agreements define the rules and regulations under which the exports are meant to be fairly distributed, a totalitarian government can use means to regulate the exports to them. Much of what the United States might aggressively pursue, the Chinese might still politely decline. The Chinese government will be able to control many aspects of world trade. Statistics show this has already happened

 GDP 1070    1413 1649   9240.27
 exports 249.2   480  593.4  2210
 imports 225.1   423 561.4  1950
imports from USA  16.0   28.4   34.4   121.7
 exports to USA 107.6  152.4  196.7   440.4
foreign exchange
165.6 403.3 609  3820

SOURCES: US International Trade Commission, US Department of Commerce, Trading economics and

A news report from 2005 indicated the trend in China's emerging dominance:

China goods fuel leap in trade deficit, John Garnaut, Mar. 1, 2005

A torrent of Chinese-made clothes and electronics has led Australia into its second largest trade deficit in history, but the Government expects Chinese hunger for resources will rescue the woeful export performance.

China overtook the US as Australia's largest source of imports in January, as consumer imports rose 10 per cent in the month.

China will concentrate its military developments to provide a strong defense. Dynamic progress leading to economic prowess and the international control that it exerts will be the Chinese offensive effort. Any attempts of the western nations to interfere with China's dynamic progress will create an economic crisis. A totalitarian Chinese system can control its people during upheavals. The western nations might not be able to do that.

Chinese diplomacy is directing the world's future. This diplomacy has a strong positive initiative--preventing a possible war between China and the United States. America will complain about China's human rights abuses and its lack of democracy, but it will also recognize that China has no alternative to control its massive population than by a strong totalitarian government. China succeeded that way in the past and rigid control presumes to be a proper guide for the Asian nation's future. The western world might have to accept that a totalitarian Chinese government will remain that way. The allowance for a dictatorial government can give China flexible control of wages and prices and a competitive edge in the world's economy. American industry's eagerness to gain rapid and controlling entry into China's markets will strengthen China's infrastructure and bring a slow decline to America's economic domination. America's military threats will be neutralized by its need for satisfactory relations with China.

American industry has only considered immediate financial gains due to the China Trade Agreement and China's entry into the World Trade Organization. It has not considered long-term consequences--the dependence of American capital on Sino demands (rather than the other way), and the subordination of American labor to a realigned global production force. The Wal-Mart of American retailing might soon find itself as one of the subjects of the Wal-Mart of the world of nations.

june, 2000
slightly updated march, 2005 and September 2014