During the ‘cold war,’ a term used to describe the tension between communist and capitalist countries that lasted from 1947 to 1991, one of the fears was a military conflict between Russia or China and the U.S.It didn’t happen. The potential of a military war instead morphed into an economic war.
The U.S. was winning hands down for a long time, but not so much anymore. It used to be that the U.S. was number one in pretty much everything: education, technology, standard of living, economic and military strength, admired world leadership. It was leading the rest of the world into the future with the demonstrative power of democracy and free markets, new technological breakthroughs in automation, computers, communications, energy, medicine, space travel, to name a few.
In recent years, a number of countries have surpassed the U.S. in specific areas, including consumer incomes, standard of living, and health care. The true economic powerhouse, however, has been China. Some of the statistics, and the speed with which they have changed, have been startling.
Over the last ten years China’s economy has surged past those of Canada, Spain, Brazil, Italy, France, and Germany, and is expected to pass Japan this year, to become the second largest economy in the world, behind the U.S.
Whether it’s manufacturing efficiency, high-speed rail-line technology, nuclear power plant construction, clean air energy technology, education, China is making impressive global inroads, even in areas where the U.S. still has significant dominance. Much of it has to do with China’s massive population, about which the U.S. can do nothing.
For instance, while U.S. Internet companies dominate global headlines, China now has the world’s largest internet market as measured by the number of users. Yet internet use has only penetrated 22 percent of the population versus 75 percent in the U.S. Meanwhile, U.S. Internet giants like Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon, Facebook and Expedia are experiencing problems trying to transport their dominance into the Chinese market. Part of it is obstacles placed in their way by China’s government, in support of China’s state-controlled corporations. The result is Chinese internet companies like Tencent, and Baidu, cannot help but become world leaders.