Answers to Four Key Questions about China’s Rise


"Is China going to compete for world power?" Most people in China, if asked such a question, would show little interest in the country fighting for world power with the U.S., and still less in becoming another U.S.

However, in the U.S. and some European countries, many may ask: How can we trust that China won’t be that way? They are concerned that China may try to set up a new regional order under its rule.

In a recent conversation with Henry Kissinger, he told me that he thought more people should know what the Chinese are thinking. I have therefore chosen the few hotly discussed topics below to share some of the views in China.

 A 300,000-ton oil tanker unloads in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province.

First, is China a world power?

For most in the U.S., and the world for that matter, China is undoubtedly a newly rising world power.

According to the latest IMF purchasing power parity calculation, China’s GDP overtook that of the U.S. to be the number one of the world. However, such a story did not raise much excitement in China. Most see it simply as flattery.

Foreigners see China’s progress based mainly on images of its skylines in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou. But if you drive 100 km out of these megacities, you will easily find people living at very basic levels. By the UN poverty standard of US $1.25 a day, there are still about 200 million Chinese, or roughly 14 percent of the Chinese population, living under that line.

In China, urbanization has reached 51 percent. But when measured at the human level, people who are living in city conditions are no more than 37 percent. That is to say, more people in China are yet to enjoy urban quality of life, like clean water and proper medical care.

China is a country that has just come out of overall poverty. Those born in the 1980s were the first generation of Chinese to have grown up with a full stomach and who started to enjoy freedom of choice.

But at the national level, more challenges are waiting to be addressed, such as more hospitals, schools, and a better environment. The country is on a steep upward slope, confronting difficulties sometimes beyond the imagination of the outside world. That is why we state that China is a developing country, and that for a long time to come, the country will focus on its reform and opening to the outside world in order to promote development.

We have two centenary objectives. The first is to double the GDP as well as both urban and rural average incomes based on 2010 figures in time for the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party in 2021. The second is to turn the country into a modernized socialist society, with per capita income levels reaching that of a medium-level developed country by the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in the middle of this century.

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