Red Dawn

Why the United States should embrace, not fear, China’s economic rise.


Henry Kissinger’s 2001 book Does America Need a Foreign Policy? opens with the observation that "[a]t the dawn of the new millennium, the United States is enjoying a preeminence unrivaled by even the greatest empires of the past. From weaponry to entrepreneurship, from science to technology, from higher education to popular culture, America exercises an unparalleled ascendancy around the globe." One decade, two military quagmires, and an economic meltdown later, few authors would venture such a presumption — not least Kissinger, whose most recent tome reflects the obsession of those who have come to realize that the post-Cold War world is not so unipolar after all. It’s called On China.

But for all the urgent attention paid to China in recent years, we might actually be underestimating how fast the world has already changed. This is the argument that Arvind Subramanian advances in Eclipse, his new book on the Sino-American balance of power. "The economic dominance of China relative to the United States is more imminent (it may already have begun), will be more broad-based … and could be as large in magnitude in the next 20 years as that of the United Kingdom in the halcyon days of empire or the United States in the aftermath of World War II," he suggests. Subramanian, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (and also a part-time colleague of mine at the Center for Global Development), notes that by 2010 China had overtaken the United States as the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (a measure that accounts for the fact that many goods are cheaper in the developing world).

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