Has China’s Power Peaked?

This was supposed to be the “Chinese century.” In just a few decades, China transitioned from a developing economy to the world’s second largest. Measured in purchasing power parity, it actually surpassed the U.S. economy in 2014, and has since expanded its military, monetary, infrastructure, and soft power capacities in ways that all seemed to point to long-term advantages as a rising power. At the Communist Party’s five-yearly congress in October 2022, Xi Jinping cemented his place as the country’s “helmsman” and its most powerful person since Mao Zedong, with an unprecedented third term as party chief. And yet the failure of China’s zero-COVID policy, a slumping economy, apparent supply chain vulnerabilities within its technology sector, and a problematic demographic profile have all raised questions about the scope of China’s future power. Those who say it has peaked say the Chinese system is facing significant economic headwinds, uneven innovation, a heavy debt burden, as well as mounting frustrations among its younger populations with regard to upward mobility and censorship. Those who say it hasn’t peaked argue that while the nation’s economic growth has indeed slowed, massive Chinese spending in infrastructure, defense, and technology will nonetheless allow it to enlarge its global power projections well into the future. Against this backdrop, we debate this question: Has China’s Power Peaked? Arguing “No” is Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk research and consulting firm. He is also a founder of the digital media firm GZERO Media. Bremmer is the foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at Time magazine, where he writes about China, U.S. foreign policy, and geopolitics. He has published ten books, including “Superpower,” “The Power of Crisis,” and the national bestsellers “The End of the Free Market” and “Every Nation for Itself.” Arguing “Yes” is Michael Beckley, formerly of the Harvard Kennedy School, the US Department of Defense, the RAND Corporation, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the author of “Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower,” has a PhD in political science from Columbia University, and is currently associate professor of political science at Tufts University.