The is an old saying that goes, “Some men are born great, others achieve greatness, and still others have greatness thrust upon them.” The same principles apply to nations.
In 1905 the U.S. became the largest economy in the world. At that time it was far from being a major military power. The U.S. had a population of some 83,000,000 with a military that numbered about 100,000. France had 1,300,000 men in uniform and the U.K. with a population of half the size of the U.S. had about 700,000 military. The German states had about 615,000 total.
The U.S. was largely isolationist before the wars. Most citizens didn’t want to get involved with European wars, but for various reasons it was drawn into the conflicts and it emerged as the world’s dominate power, both militarily and economically. It could be said the U.S. had greatness thrust upon it.
World War I, World War II and Korea caused the U.S. to ramp up its military as it was drawn into the conflicts. Threats and fear of communism convinced America to keep its military large and up to date. Today, while the U.S. doesn’t have the largest military in the world, its combat forces are easily the most powerful, mainly due to huge investments in superior technology.
From time to time the questions about China’s future power arise. Will China become a great power, both militarily and economically? Does China have the will to do so? Are the Chinese people ready for the responsibilities that come with power and wealth?
The answer to these question is yes. China will become the greatest power in the world, and it will do so sooner rather than later. Will China follow the same path in the Twenty-first Century that America followed in the Twentieth? Probably not exactly, though there are certain parallels already visible.
Power follows money, and China is now the world’s banker. As the world’s banker, China will find it has economic interests scattered throughout the world. It will require a strong military to protect those interests. As a rich country, China will have the financial resources to build and maintain its military.
China has a huge population of approximately 4-5 times that of the U.S. and its economy is quickly on its way to becoming the largest in the world. The Chinese military is more than 2,000,000 strong, but it is not an offensive force.
There doesn’t seem to be a war on the horizon that would force China to develop an offensive military quickly, but incidents like the Diaoyu Islands humiliation by Japan, conflicts in Africa, and other unresolved territorial disputes may encourage a stronger and more outward looking military.
In many ways China born great. It has a large, mostly homogeneous, hard working population, and many natural resources. In that way it can be said China was born great. It is achieving greatness by being the world’s manufacturing and banking hub. More greatness will come as China’s military become more powerful and outward looking.