Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:January 22nd, 2006 12:58 EST
A Look at Future Global Power

A Look at Future Global Power

By Joey O'Donnell

From now until 2100, there is a race. That race is for who will become the leading global power. If you think it’s going to be the United States, you’re strongly mistaken. The contest is, in fact, between China and India.

Both India and China are enjoying economic growth rates that far superior to that of the United States. Currently, while their per capita income is much less in both countries than the United States, there is a huge population; that means that, at this rate, overall their economies will eventually surpass that of the United States.

Not only are their economies growing, but so are their militaries, and they’re gaining the cultural influence and the political weight consistent with that of a rising power.

A little more than a hundred years ago, Great Britain was prevented by the United States from becoming the largest economy in the world. In the same fashion, in the course of this century, the United States seems likely to be overtaken. But will it be India or China?

India brings some great qualities to the table, including its English language sophistication— allowing many of them to communicate with Americans, or even take their jobs, its common law tradition, and the fact that it has a political system that is reasonably stable.  India has also been moving toward economic reform since the early 1990s.  It’s sensible to expect that outsourcing will be a huge boom for India.

India also has some disadvantages, such as the weak manufacturing sector, and the jobless growth— despite the huge tech-sector, that still only provides jobs for as many as a million people. While India has been making great progress in adopting more rational economic policies, it is still way behind China in adopting shrewd policies that really maximize economic growth. China has been astonishingly good at this; for 25 years it has been able to sustain growth rates of nearly 10 percent a year, due to investing and building a strong infrastructure. India, however, has a poor infrastructure, and it is believed that maybe a democracy isn’t the best way to be led, because it prevents the government from making tough political decisions.

China will most likely continue to grow more quickly than India, eventually transitioning to a democracy with bearable turbulence— this could result in mass unrest or a civil war. Until China has made that political transition, it is reasonable to be optimistic about China’s growth capacity, but also nervous about whether that can be sustained, and without incident.

India is clearly registering real progress, but it’s also slow.  There seems to be ambivalence about the tough political decisions that India needs to make to enhance its economy, but nonetheless, there is great confidence that India will sustain a solid economic growth rate of about 3 or 4 percent. China is a more risky situation, though in the long run will grow faster than India—about 10 percent a year—and most likely become the next leading global power.