March 10, 2016 | Commentary on China, China Military Modernization, American Leadership

China: Ready to Assume a Leadership Role?

A recent Pew Survey on global attitudes shows that most people around the world believe that China will eclipse, or already has eclipsed, the United States as the dominant superpower. This is hardly surprising, given several decades of seemingly untrammeled growth that has allowed the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to become the nation with the world’s second largest GDP, behind only the United States. Moreover, China’s GDP is expected, within a decade, to match or surpass America’s. With access to great economic power, military capability cannot be far behind. So, it appears that it is only a matter of time before China bestrides the world as the new, eastern colossus.

But beneath the glittering economic statistics, there are real reasons to question whether China can, much less will, displace the United States as the new global power—and even greater uncertainties about what such a world would look like. China faces real structural and organizational problems that are likely to interfere with its continued growth. Moreover, this growth may arouse an unprecedented reaction from its neighbors, especially if the United States does not succumb to a renewed bout of isolationism.

 - Dean Cheng is the senior research fellow for Chinese political and security affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

 - This piece originally appeared in War on the Rocks and can be viewed in full at

About the Author

Dean Cheng Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center
Asian Studies Center

Originally appeared in War on the Rocks