As the world struggles out of the Great Recession, it’s finding a new nation is entering the class of the powerful:
For decades, China followed the dictum of its late supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, to keep its head down abroad and focus on development at home. But earlier this decade, emboldened by success and mindful that their globalized economy needs stability, communist leaders started pressing for a place among the nations that manage world affairs.
These days, Beijing is claiming a bigger voice in global economic forums such as the Group of 20 and is getting more deference in the United Nations, which could mean protection for friends such as Iran and Myanmar. Its military spending is the world’s second-highest, behind that of the United States.
“China is very likely to be the second-most-powerful country — if it isn’t now, then within a decade,” says Kenneth Lieberthal, director of the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center in Washington.
For the United States, it’s a mixed blessing. The American and Chinese economies are intertwined, and the success of one depends on the health of the other.
The United States is China’s biggest trade partner. China sent $338 billion in goods here last year. Beijing is Washington’s biggest creditor, with more than $800 billion invested in government debt. American automakers look to China’s growing market to propel future sales.
The financial crisis set back U.S. growth by years and will add trillions to the federal debt over the next decade. But China avoided the worst of the crisis. Its banks are healthy and, with the help of a 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus, this year’s economic growth is on track to top 8 percent.
There’s a new player on the block folks.