The answer is yes, already partly now and overall within twenty years. The relevant facts are: China’s population is more than four times that of the US. Both countries have about equal landmass although the US is buttressed by two oceans east and west. Both countries are equally capitalistic although China proclaims itself a communist country. Chinese economic growth is currently 8% annually compared with 2% for the US. China will have a GDP greater than that of the US even if it produces at one-quarter the US level on a per capita basis. Finally, China has a foreign reserve valued at $2 trillion as opposed to the US national debt of $2.5 trillion.
According to a recent issue of the Economist (December 2011), the following is a list of economic sectors where China has already, or will overtake the US:
Steel consumption, surpassing the US in 1999.
Mobile phones, 2001.
Fixed investment, 2009.
Manufacturing output, 2010.
Energy consumption, 2010.
Car sales, 2010.
Patents granted to residents, 2010.
Retail sales, projected to surpass the US in 2014.
GDP on purchasing-power parity (ppp) basis, 2016.
GDP at market rates, 2018.
Stock market capitalization, 2020.
Consumer spending, 2023.
Defense spending, 2025.
It looks like it will definitely happen in our generation. No wonder most American companies have their eyes fixed on China. So are other companies from the rest of the world. The US government must undertake a complete overhaul of its foreign policy. Do they want to engage, compete or impede? Do they want to take advantage, ignore, or complain about something appearing inevitable? How should they behave when they become number two?
The same questions should be posed to China, too. Do they want to achieve a full democracy? How should they behave when they become number one?