A vast majority of Americans have absolutely no clue how advanced China has become. Look at the social media comments, and it’s clear that too many Americans – especially Trump supporters – are filled with misinformation and prejudice. “China is 100 years behind” … “All Chinese products are crap” … “China can’t innovate” … “It’s a communist, poor, polluted country” … and, of course, the most popular theme is “China’s economy is about to collapse.” It’s hard to change these opinions, since those people reinforce their biases by gleefully consuming and sharing only anti-China articles. Anything remotely positive about China is attacked as “Chinese propaganda.”
This potent mix of ignorance and hubris is also precisely why western corporations gladly and voluntarily shared their intellectual property (IP) with their Chinese joint-venture partners. The term “forced technology transfer” was invented retroactively only after Chinese corporations started threatening western profits — for example: Huawei has overtaken Apple, Nokia and Ericsson in smartphones, 5G and telecom infrastructure; BYD manufactures more electric vehicles than Tesla; Alibaba and Tencent process 50x more mobile payments than the US; and the most valuable (ByteDance) and the most innovative (Meituan) startups are Chinese.
While it’s true that China as whole has a long way to go in GDP-per-capita, many big cities in China are essentially “developed economies.” Plus, China has surpassed the US in many areas and is catching up in others.
If you don’t know your competitor, you’re certain to lose the game. So here are some quick statistics on China’s global leadership:
Economy, Manufacturing, Trade
=> #1 in PPP GDP (been so since 2014 when it surpassed the US)
=> #2 in nominal GDP ($13.5 trillion in 2018 and $14.4 trillion in 2019). And it’s as big as the next 4 countries combined!
=> #1 in exports (been so since 2009 when it overtook Germany)
=> #1 in container traffic (40% of global market). 7 out of the Top 10 busiest seaports are in China
=> #2 importer ($2.1 trillion)
=> #1 in manufacturing value added (been so since 2010 when China took the crown from the US, which had been #1 for the previous 110 years). The chart below is based on data from the World Bank
In spite of coronavirus/COVID-19, China’s manufacturing continues to grow and accounts for28% of global manufacturing. In fact, China is as big as the US, Japan and Germany combined.
=> #1 in foreign exchange reserves (>$3 trillion)
=> #1/#2 holder of US debt (>$1 trillion)
=> #1 banking system (twice the size of the US, in terms of assets). Surpassed the EU in 2016.
=> #1 trade partner for 130 countries (trade = exports + imports). And for 37 countries, China is their #1 export destination (meaning, they sell the most goods to China).
=> #1 in contribution to global GDP growth for the past decade (25-35%, which is twice that of the US). That is, if the world GDP grows by $100, then $25-$35 comes from China.
=> #1 in steel, cement, aluminum production (link, link, link). In three years (2012 – 2015), China used more cement than the US did in the entire 20th (link)
=> #1 in electricity generation (link)
=> #1 importer of crude oil (link)
=> #1 in purchase of industrial robots, accounting for almost 40% of global market in 2018 (link)
=> #1 in manufacturing of conventional cars (>26 million per year)
=> #2 in hi-tech manufacturing (Yeah, China isn’t just making t-shirts anymore)
=> #2 in billionaires (415 billionaires as of 2020)
=> #2 in millionaires (5 million millionaires)
=> #2 stock market, by market cap (overtook Japan in 2014)
=> #2 bond market, worth $16 trillion (link)
=> #1 in representation in Global Fortune 500 companies. (surpassed the USA in 2020). The chart below is from 2019. By mid-2020, mainland China had 124 and the US had 121 companies.
=> #1 in production of rice, wheat, potato, beer(!), tea, apple, strawberry, grapes and numerous other grains, vegetables and fruits. (link)
=> #1 in Middle Class population (350 million in 2018; and it overtook the US in 2015)
=> #1 country in the wealthiest Top 10% of global households (overtook USA). Now there are 100 million Chinese worth $110K or more.
=> #1 in poverty elimination (800 million lifted out of extreme poverty). Extreme poverty will be practically 0% in 2020.
=> #1 in online/e-commerce retail sales (3x the US)
=> #1 in personal luxury goods sales (35% of global market)
=> #1 retail market in the world by 2019 or by 2020 ($5.6 trillion) ($5 trillion)
=> #1 in international tourism spending (In 2010, Chinese tourists spent half as much as Americans; and by 2017, China was spending twice as much as the US)
=> #1 in Internet users (China had only 2 million internet users in 1998. It then grew to 300 million by 2008 and 900 million by early 2020).
=> #2 in Unicorns (startup companies worth more than $1 billion). 142 in China versus 175 in US. In 2020, the number of Unicorns are 227 in China versus 233 in the USA). Interestingly, 16 Unicorns in the US were founded by Chinese immigrants or Chinese Americans.
=> #2 in venture capital funding ($100 billion of new venture capital funding for about 2,900 startups last year )
=> #1 in e-commerce (42% of world market)
=> #1 in 4G mobile network (2 billion users)
=> #1 in Internet users (830 million people) and fiber-optic broadband users (320 million)
=> #1 in smartphones (Chinese brands have 50% of the global market)
=> #1 in solar, wind and hydroelectric power (link)
=> #1 in electric cars – manufacturing and sales (link)
=> #1 in consumer drones (70% of global market)
=> #1 in supercomputers (227 out of the 500 supercomputers are Chinese)
=> #1 in mobile payments (50x larger than the US)
=> #1 in skyscrapers – more than half of all skyscrapers are in China (link)
=> #1 in global infrastructure projects. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) involves 152 countries and international organizations. (link)
=> #1 in patents — accounting for almost half of all patents in the world!
=> #1 in international patents – according to WIPO. The US had been #1 since 1978 when WIPO/PCT was established. China had 58,990 international patents in 2019. Here’s an infographics
=> #1 in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) college graduates (4x as many as the US)
=> #1 in scientific publications since 2016. And also catching up on the Top 10% and Top 1% of these papers/articles. (link)
=> #1 in the world in math, science and reading proficiency among high school students
=> #1 in 5G (China owns about 40% of 5G patents, and the world’s leading 5G vendor and patent holder is none other than Huawei)
=> #1 in Artificial Intelligence (AI) funding, startups and publications (link, link)
=> #1 in R&D spending in 2019 – according to US National Science Board; here’s an updated article for 2020. In the chart below, brown = USA and purple = China. The chart shows only up to 2017.
=> #2 in number of satellites in orbit/space (280 satellites as of 2018). In 2018, China became the first country to land on the far side of the moon. In both 2018 and 2019, China was #1 in rocket launches.
What should the US do? Try to “contain” China? Start World War III to maintain global hegemony? Become depressed and paranoid? Thankfully, the answer to all those questions is, “NO.” There are constructive things that America can and should do to prepare for the future.
Originally published on WORLD AFFAIRS