November 20th, 2011
09:25 AM ET

Zakaria: How China can be a real superpower

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Watching the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii last week, I had a feeling we were entering a new phase of Asian geopolitics. For decades now, those summits have been occasions for Asian countries to worry about U.S. commitment to Asia.  How strong is it? Who does Washington back? Will we stay engaged?

The Obama Administration has made clear that America is in Asia for good and that it might actually increase its presence in the region. But the real concerns are no longer about Washington but rather about Beijing.

Countries in Asia and around the world are worrying about China.

In 2010, as China asserted its sovereignty over disputed waters and islands in the South China Sea, it rattled neighbors from Japan to South Korea to Vietnam. As these countries watch China's military modernization, they worry more.

It's not just in Asia, of course. Take a look at Africa, where China's investments and activities are now becoming part of those countries' domestic politics. The recent elections in Zambia, for example, were won by a candidate who promised to take on the Chinese. By some accounts, the Chinese have virtual control over that country's economy. This is because Zambia is a huge copper exporter and Chinese state-owned companies are deeply involved in that business. And it is a sign of China's power that that candidate, who is now president, has had to make nice with the Chinese and threw a lunch for Chinese investors last week. This might explain it: Copper exports produce two-thirds of the government’s revenues.

The United States is also witnessing new levels of anxiety about Chinese business practices. The Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney, made a stunningly tough statement about China recently:

"China is on almost every dimension cheating. We got to recognize that. They're manipulating their currency and by doing so they're holding down the price of Chinese goods and making sure their products are artificially low-priced. It's predatory pricing. It's killing jobs in America."

This is remarkable because it breaks with 40 years of Republican foreign policy. Since Nixon and Kissinger opened China to the world, the Republican strategy has been to engage China and not condemn it. That Mitt Romney is changing tells us that the popular mood towards China in the United States is now very hostile.

People keep saying that America needs a new China strategy. But I think if you see how many countries are wondering about Beijing, the truth is that China needs a new China strategy.

Beijing needs to recognize that it has become a world power, that its every move is now deeply analyzed, and that it is expected to play by the rules - indeed, it is expected to help maintain the rules.

Will it? That's one of the big questions of this new century.

For more of my thoughts throughout the week, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to visit the Global Public Square every day. Also, for more of my takes, click here.

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Topics: Asia • China • Fareed's Take • From Fareed

soundoff (419 Responses)
  1. Aditya Mookerjee

    On the appearance, and in reality, we are all humans. The Chinese are not from another planet. We all need to live together. It seems strongly, that economic considerations drive the foreign policies of both the United States, and China. To what extent will the two nations follow their economic considerations to become richer, than they already are?

    November 27, 2011 at 9:05 am | Reply
  2. True Asian

    What's wrong with CNN. I made a post 10 hours ago, and is yet to appear, and you say comments are not pre-screened?

    November 27, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  3. True Asian

    I try to repost a shorter version. Failed. Repost again an even shorter version. Failed again. Repost a 3rd time with only 2 paragraphs. Failed too.

    And you Americans think you are a free country? SHOUTING OUR LOUD!! CNN does censorship, CNN does censorship.

    November 27, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Reply
  4. Victorr

    Ahh..again we have the scenario of the media manipulated people taking about how China is inferior. Reality is Reality. What is is What is. This scenario has happened way to many times it has almost become funny. Some of you media manipulated people will question the "What is" and the "Reality". Haha...you make me laugh, Zakaria makes money off of this, the American people has become corrupt. China is only at the beginning of the road, already you think it has gone too far and you are trying to push a truck backwards. China just started entering the Superpower phase, and you regard China as trash. China is not trash, most of the things you use today is from China. Don't doubt, spout, or shout. Don't deny, lie, or ask why.

    November 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  5. Taxpayer

    A
    Pentagon and weapon industry have been very successful in brainwashing Americans that China is a military "threat" to ensure continuous spending on expensive weapon systems and a huge military budget that we can no longer afford. Let's not be the world police and spend money wisely to create jobs at home. That is the best homeland security.

    November 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  6. asian guy

    maybe China will be a super power of the world in the future ( but i doubt this ) but China has never been a super power of the world in the past. the fact is that the influence of china in the past was only in the eastern Asia, not the whole world. a "used to be super power" but was defeated by Mongolia in 13th cecentury and insulted by the westerners in 18th cenutury? at present china only know to steal technology to make products illegally to sell them to the whole world, china is bulling small neighbering countries to rob land and sea , china is supporting the dictatoral regimes like Noth Korea or Myanmar...( 35 years ago china supported the Polpot regime in Cambodia that killed two millions innocent Cambidians), so this china country will be new super power of the world. in the way of thinking of chinese ( not so different thousands years ago) a super power would be "high above" the other countries, china would tell them what to do, china would bestow them favours..a real super power is responsible country for the develop, peace, advance, porsperity of human...

    p/s, by the way, any guy in here can define what a super power is.

    November 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Reply
    • That'snottrue:[

      You know nothing of Chinese history, look up the Ming, Tang or Chinese empires up in wikapedia!!!
      & Your not Asian.... unless you're an ABC, that explains the lack of rational thought.
      Go back to Asia once in while!!!
      &&& Another thing since the US is a "super power" look at its actions, endless wars, served hot and cold.... though they never win. Guatommino bay, supporting dictors in the middle east, remember the egypt incident? ect....
      Your definition of a "super power" is flawed since you think it only appies to China, every nation especially north american and eurpean ones done worse in recent years, once again look at all the wars.

      December 2, 2011 at 11:56 am | Reply
  7. PMcDonald

    It will be better if the international rules are changed to allow government support for industrial development. Why make a rule to prevent that if it damages industry and growth? Just because the Americans are irrationally anti-government after Reagan economically illiterate policies. In fact China will play by the rules because it will re-write the rules.

    November 28, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  8. marc gunn

    The biggest subsidy in the history of mankind is... TARP. This subsidy blows away all other by a factor of a thousand and permeates its benefits to not only the finance and banking sector but ALL businesses in the US which obtain financing (...which is pretty much everything).

    We also get cheaper financing than the rest of the world by having pushed for a strong-dollar policy for decades. This denomination of international transactions in our currency cannot be used directly within the foreign country's economy and is thus reinvested back into the US (by design) and we willingly receive it (as FDI or Treasury sales) which lowers our interest rate, in effect a subsidy.

    Another benefit of our strong-dollar policy is simply that we can print what foreign countries earn. We get real products and they get our paper (cash) which we print at will, in effect an interest free IOU (i.e. a loan) We can and have printed money liberally (unlike the ECB, think QE1 and QE2) and this is in effect another incredibly massive subsidy beyond all other countries.

    We are total hypocrites... how can we possibly accuse anyone of anything after TARP... and other massive STATE interventions such as AIG and GM?

    November 29, 2011 at 2:22 am | Reply
  9. Rafael

    What about American protectionism? Many emerging countries have been doing the same thing as China, for many years, and that's part of what's helping them to breathe out of U.S. monopoly and attract world investors. But, please, United States, go back to the circus fight between Democrats and Republicans. I like popcorn.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:02 am | Reply
  10. Elizabeth

    How China can become a real superpower? Next question will be......Are you ready .....China to become a world leader?.....With current economy, it can be however,,,,, only China will get rich....All other countries around the world will become poor...... With current selfishness, ....I don't think ....China is ready....... still need to change lots in China.... respect for humanity..... people in China are very selfish..They just look at for themselves to get money .....Money is god .... Money is power..Money is everything....

    November 30, 2011 at 12:34 am | Reply
  11. dolphin81

    China a superpower?

    With a huge mess of problems at home, China will never become one, whether in military, financially, economically & culturally.

    I wish the DC Cold warriors will just stop thinking of CHina being the next USSR. The future is a multipolar world.

    November 30, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply
  12. irishguy1131

    I am going to throw out a crazy idea here. You may just think I'm an ignorant school boy (but I'm a step above that! and ignorant college kid! 🙂 ) but I have given this a lot of thought so if you could take the time to tell me how much of an a– I have made out of myself it would be much appreciated. So here is the given: We owe china .9% of out debt (not even a percent! in face we owe Brazil more at a staggering 1.5%), China has an economy (in GDP) 1/3 the size of ours, they currently though are experiencing a higher rate of economic growth then us which is why people are afraid, and China is THE hotspot for corporate offshoring (hate on corps as much as you want but its something they have to do to survive, and really people corps are good! the world needs them! America needs them! we the people need them!). So now that I think I have covered most of the given (Its 3am and I'm tired, might have missed something) I'll go to my major premise. Pay back China what we owe (over time), stop dealing in U.S. debt (it has worked but dealing in debt can only go so far), and then embargo them. The government should attack corporations that continue to offshore with immense taxes, sanctions, and hell maybe even a charge of treason (think about it, currently they are bringing down their own country!) while attempting to take the teeth out of the labor unions (so they accept lower wages, love unions but things much change). I haven't figured out how we take the teeth out of the labor unions, thats a job for congress :). Anyways once we have an embargo on China and have made it impossible for businesses to offshore we must then help businesses make a profit here. People need to be able to afford what they sell so the cost must go down, the cost of manufacturing must also go down, which means that the cost of labor goes down. This is how we can make our currency more valuable and stop inflation. Anyways, this plan promises to make a mess out of thing for at least a solid decade but in the long run I think it fits nicely. I like to call it Controlled Capitalism, Capitalism that is not allowed to reach over into any other country except one that is in NATO. Oh and we should tell the U.N. to go f- itself and to take its headquarters out of our country and never attend another meeting.

    November 30, 2011 at 5:20 am | Reply
    • That'snottrue:[

      Since you're a school boy, I'll say it nicely. I think you got your numbers wrong, China is the biggest foreign debt owner of the US, Brazil by your numbers should be 0.15%
      As for your plan..... you have to get into politics, get into congress. But first become a lawyer to get in....... so... are you willing?

      December 2, 2011 at 11:49 am | Reply
  13. John

    The fact is China's ancient philosophy has always been directed inward, toward themselves, as they have traditional ly been an introverted society and this has not changed much in recent years. Added to that, most if not all, Western countries have very little understanding of Chinese cultures and psychololgical attributes. There is great opportunity for China and other countries to co-exist successfully, with all reaping rewards. However, there so much more that needs to be done in terms of discussions between our governements and a much broader exchange between Western and Chinese societies. Until that take place, it will status quo.

    November 30, 2011 at 8:26 am | Reply
  14. Tina L. Moore - Airwnd DeadArt

    There is something to be said regarding the time of media display of the word(s) of dictionary of the meaning of implication of Lie – In the Book of Geneis there was this .......

    31:4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,

    31:5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.

    31:6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.

    31:7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.

    comments: in the realms of constellations there are many during the time of suggested that would be in the realms of the oracle of her display. There was the issue of cosmetics and fingernail polish. This was the determining factor of the original set before the time of the anicent of manifestation upon the land.

    The fact that in the current time of War the answers as to the "how" of the anicent is as God Created in the Book of Geneis for example:

    33:19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.

    33:20 And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.

    The health care debate of (time) will remain unanswer for the knowing of such was there before such spread of time would allowed or negotiated. The fact that those in persons around me would like to know the answer of my thoughts of reason for........memo of not! Would mean that she sits with the cure but now is on a cell phone(???????)

    December 9, 2011 at 10:35 am | Reply
  15. Pierre,French

    When I read all those comments, I tell to myself that's normal to see wars everywhere. There is so much hate on everyone ! To know which is the real superpower, china or USA, I don't care. All I see is that we are all embeded on the same planet, and there is no more time enough to discuss that point. We need to deal altogether for the best, earth won't suffer any wasting time too long. Then who's the best, the smarter, the taller, the brigther ... the... the...., alors désolé mais on s'en fout, comme on dit en France,nous n'avons plus le temps de penser à ces conneries, le temps presse et nous n'en n'avons plus assez. Vivons ensemble, sur la même terre et comprenons que les concours de beauté entre nous sont superficiels et sans objet. See You (sorry for my English, I hope I've been well understood)

    December 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  16. I speak Chinese

    this is American Media, which controlled by the 1%. when the 1% want to invade a country, they first use meida to make americans believe the country is dangerous, second send their army to the country, third plunder anything they want in a so-called 'legal' way. by using this dirty trick, they successfully invaded Iraq, Lybia, and I believe they are planning invade another country.It's important to note that American ppl get nothing from this war but higher endless debt.

    December 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  17. sam

    it could be true, china could be manipulating its currency rate but with a hefty price, they have to buy in bulk of usa bond every months. Fareed is bashing China and at the same time ignoring the fact that USA is no better either, USA has been abusing its currency status, they manipulated the world financial market, they used QE1&2 to benefit itself and harm others, etc.

    apparently Fareed is a pro-india critics who share the common concept of value of the american leaders,To me there is no body who is just and righteous. China is terrible and so are USA, Russia, India, Burma, etc...

    January 27, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
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