If the USSR was a Superpower, then is China a Superpower?

Shaun Rein in Forbes makes the case that China has arrived as a superpower

Here are three trends to look for in 2010 that demonstrate China’s superpower status:

First, China is wielding national influence in places it never affected before. Premier Wen Jiabao and the World Bank are even discussing ways to move textile factories from southern China to Africa. China’s factories just might lift up Africa as no Western aid money has ever been able to do. Look for Chinese companies to buy not just access to commodities but also Western brands, like Volvo and Hummer. Building brands takes decades. Seventy percent of Top 500 Chinese companies plan to use the downturn to speed up their international expansion, using both acquisitions and organic growth.

The second trend is China’s emergence as a hotbed of innovation. It is spending $9 billion a month on clean energy research, and within five years it will become the world’s largest producer of solar and wind energy. Most rural homes already heat water using solar panels on their roofs, and China is now exporting its wind power technology to the U.S. Its technology is being used to build a 36,000-acre wind farm in Texas.

The third trend: Not only is China becoming ever more powerful economically; it is also starting to exert its political power more responsibly.

China Compared to the USSR
China has a larger economy now than the USSR, than if the old countries of USSR were recombined.

At its peak the USSR was about 50% of the GDP of the USA. In 2010, China and Hong Kong GDP will be about $5.5 trillion. The USA will have about $14.7 trillon. China will be about 37.4% of the US economy.

According to purchasing power parity, China (and Hong Kong) will have $9.5 trillion to the US $14 trillion in 2010 China is 68% of the US economy in PPP terms.

Superpower definition at wikipedia

A superpower is a state with a leading position in the international system and the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests; it is traditionally considered to be one step higher than a great power.

Alice Lyman Miller (Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School), defines a superpower as “a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemon.

The term was first used in 1943 by Nicholas Spykman and then in 1944 by William T.R. Fox. Fox said in 1944 there were three states that were superpowers: Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The British Empire was the most extensive empire in world history, which was considered the foremost great power and by 1921, held sway over 25% of the world’s population and controlled about 25% of the Earth’s total land area, while the United States and the Soviet Union grew in power in World War II.

In 2010, China is likely to pass Japan on a nominal GDP basis. China would then be number one in population, and number 2 economically (if the EU is not counted as one entity). China would still be far behind militarily, but is making political and cultural influence gains.

USSR and US economies (1989) according to 1990 CIA The World Factbook
GDP (1989 - millions $) 2,659,500 5,233,300
Population (July 1990) 290,938,469 250,410,000
GDP Per Capita ($) 9,211 21,082
Labor force (1989) 152,300,000 125,557,000

Country GDP (2010 nominal) GDP (2009 nominal) PPP 2010 Population
China 5,263 4,758 9200 1345
Hong Kong 221 209 307 7.1
Russia 1,364 1,243 2165 141.9
Ukraine 120 116 366 46.1
Belarus 54 50 125 9.7
Kazakhstan 121 107 196 15.4
Azerbaijan 47 38 93 8.5
Georgia 11.8 11.3 25.3 4.4
Uzbekistan 35 31 77 27.4
Armenia 9.8 10.5 21 3.0
Lithuania 39.4 40.4 70 3.4
Latvia 25.5 27 43 2.3
Estonia 18.5 18.8 31.4 1.3
Kyrgyzstan 5.1 4.9 12.4 5.3
Tajikistan 5.5 5.4 13.7 6.7
Moldova 5.2 5.1 11.8 3.8
USSR Total 1862 1708 3251 279.2