以购买力平价计算，中国正准备超越 美国成为世界上最大的经济体。它的经济体已经有我们80%的规模，如果当前增长 速度的差距继续维持，中国只需再花4年就会超越我们。按市场汇率计算，中国GDP偏低，而且预期在2020年之前保持比我们低。这是不足为奇的，毕竟中国 有比美国4倍还多的人口；如果每个中国工人按照美国最低工资赚钱，它的GDP会比我们更大。这不是一个高单杠游戏。而是随着经济规模带来军力和全球文化影 响力。
Why China’s Global Supremacy Is Not Inevitable
The country’s strongest asset—its huge size—is also it’s biggest liability.
China’s fast growing economy will enable it to expand its military and diplomatic reach. (Reuters)
China is preparing to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy, in purchasing power parity terms. Already its economy is 80 percent the size of ours, and if current growth rate differentials persist, it will take China only about four more years to surpass us. At market exchange rates, China’s GDP is smaller, and is expected to remain less than ours until 2028. This is hardly surprising. After all, China has four times as many people as the U.S.; if every Chinese worker were to earn the U.S. minimum wage, its GDP would be larger than ours. That is not a very high bar. With that economic size comes military power and global cultural clout.
以购买力平价计算，中国正准备超越美国成为世界上最大的经济体。它的经济体已经有我们80%的规模，如果当前增长 速度的差距继续维持，中国只需再花4年就会超越我们。按市场汇率计算，中国GDP偏低，而且预期在2020年之前保持比我们低。这是不足为奇的，毕竟中国 有比美国4倍还多的人口；如果每个中国工人按照美国最低工资赚钱，它的GDP会比我们更大。这不是一个高单杠游戏。而是随着经济规模带来军力和全球文化影 响力。
China’s awe-inspiring rise is often framed as the return to a historical norm. A common belief is that for most of the last 5,000 years, China was the world’s center of wealth, culture, technology, and power. The 19th and 20th centuries, we are told, were a brief aberration, and China is now simply retaking its rightful place as the world’s preeminent nation. This trope gives China a certain air of inevitability.
中国威风凛凛的崛起经常标上回归历史正常水平。普遍的说法认为在过去5000年的大部分时间，中国是世界财富、文 化、科技和权力的中心。从19到20世纪时，我们被告知只是一时之差，而中国现在只需重夺其应有的地位成为世界上最杰出的国家。这种修辞给了中国一股不可 逆转命运的气息。
The problem is, it’s not really accurate.
The truth is that for most of its history, China has struggled to overcome a number of chronic difficulties that have usually kept it from global preeminence.
Let’s start by recalling ancient China, starting from 5,000 years ago. The early Chinese kingdoms—Xia, Shang, and Zhou—roughly coincided with ancient Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Greece, and China’s famous Han Dynasty coincided with Rome. Ian Morris, a Stanford historian and author of Why the West Rules—For Now, has constructed an “index of development” that takes into account urbanization. According to Morris’ index, the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern civilizations of the Ancient and Classical periods were well ahead of their Chinese counterparts.
我们先来回顾从中国古代开始的5000年以前。中国早期的王朝—夏、商、周—大约正逢古埃及、巴比伦、波斯和希 腊，然後中国最着名的汉朝正逢罗马帝国时期。伊恩·莫里斯，一个斯坦福大学的历史学家和《西方将主宰多久》的作家，设计了一项考虑到城市化的”发展指 数”。根据莫里斯的指数，地中海和中东文明的古代和古典时期，遥遥领先了他们的中国同行。
For example, the Roman Empire had many more miles of roads than Han China, and much more shipping. Although China had a few things that Rome did not—most notably the horse collar and paper—Rome in general had far more impressive engineering and technology, including advanced plumbing, mining techniques, and construction techniques. Han China was poorer—most people’s houses had dirt floors. In terms of basic science, Morris has less to say, but ancient Greece was hard to beat in this regard (though ancient China was ahead in algebra). Military power is hard to gauge, since China and the West never directly confronted each other.
例如，罗马帝国有比中国汉朝较多公里的道路，和更多的航路运输。尽管中国有一些罗马所没有的东西—最引人注目的马 项圈和纸张，罗马一般有更多令人印象深刻的工程与科技，包含先进的水管设施、采矿技术和工程技术。中国汉朝较差—大部分人的房子有脏污泥地。在基础科学方 面，莫里斯较少言及，但是古希腊很难在这方面击败 (虽然中国古代在代数领先)。军事力量不好估计，因为中国和西方并未直接对抗。
According to Morris’ data, China became richer and more developed than the West’s leading nation around the 6th century A.D. The fall of Rome and the division of the Mediterranean into European and Middle Eastern halves stifled sea trade, while China assimilated its rich South and began growing rice on a large scale. For the next 1,000 years, China was the richest place on the planet. During the years from 500 A.D. to 1200 A.D., China invented the compass, gunpowder, printing, compartmentalized ship hulls, paper money, advanced farming techniques, and a great deal of algebra and astronomy.
根据莫里斯的数据，中国在大约在公元6世纪比起西方主要国家变得富有和更为发达。罗马的衰落後，地中海被划分为欧 洲与中东半窒息的海洋贸易上，中国同化了富庶的南方，并开始大规模种植水稻。在接下去的1000年，中国是地球上最富有的地方。从公元500年到1200 年间，中国发明了指南针、火药、印刷、水密隔舱、纸币、先进的农业技术和大量的代数与天文学。
But China’s preeminence was hardly uncontested during this period. Though Europe was an economic, military and technological backwater during the Middle Ages, the Islamic empires—the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates—rivaled China in size, and actually defeated China in their one military clash (the Battle of Talas). Islamic civilization was also no slouch in basic science.
Meanwhile, China during its golden age was plagued by internal and external security threats. The An Shi rebellion tore apart China’s Tang dynasty at that empire’s height, killing millions; the dynasty never recovered. The Jurchen (ancestors of the Manchus) conquered North China in the 1100s, forcing the Sung Dynasty—the wealthiest and most technologically dynamic of the old Chinese dynasties—to relocate to the south. In the 1200s, the Mongols conquered all of China, which they ruled until 1368.
China regained stability during the Ming dynasty in the 14th to 17th centuries. During that dynasty, China was militarily powerful, defeating incursions by the Mongols, Japanese, Dutch, and Portuguese. But this period was also a “Great Stagnation” for China. Technological progress essentially stopped. A brief spurt of exploration by the Chinese explorer Zheng He (whose scope may have been exaggerated; none of the giant ships attributed to the expedition have ever been found) proved to be one of a kind, when the Chinese government restricted shipbuilding.
中国明朝在14至17世纪期间恢复稳定。在那个时期，中国军力强大，击退了蒙古人、日本人、荷兰人、葡萄牙人的入 侵。但是这时期对中国来说也是一场”大停滞”。科技进步基本停止；由中国探险家郑和率领的短暂冲锋 (航行范围有可能被夸大；没有一艘巨大船舶被认为是探险队被发现)被证明是独一独二的，当中国限制造船业後。
During the first half of the 2nd millennium A.D., the Middle East stagnated as well, but Europe was climbing out of the deep hole of the Middle Ages. By the 1500s, propelled by the discovery of the New World, Europe was making rapid strides in science and technology; by the 1600s, according to economic historians, much of Europe was richer than China.
So to sum up, China has always been one of the world’s leading civilizations over the last five millennia. But it has only held both economic and military preeminence for brief periods of time—the late 1300s and 1400s being the most notable. Why has China not been preeminent for longer stretches? History is not a science, but we can make some guesses. The very thing that makes China so powerful and important–its titanic size–also endows it with fundamental weaknesses.
总的来说，中国在过去五千年一直是世界领先的文明之一。但是同时掌握经济和军事上优势地位的时间却很短暂—14世 纪和15世纪是最显着的。为什麽中国的优势地位没有延续更长？历史并非科学，但是我们可以做出一点猜测。造成中国如此强大和重要的原因是，其巨大无比的规 模，但也赋予其根本性缺陷。
Throughout its history, China has been plagued by enormous rebellions, from the An Shi rebellion in the 700s to the Taiping Rebellion in the 1800s. These rebellions are always incredibly destructive of human life and the economy. They often expose China to external conquest, as with the fall of the Ming dynasty in the 1600s or the Japanese conquests in the 1930s. They sometimes result in the rise of extremely destructive and dysfunctional regimes, like Mao’s ascendance in the 20th century.
综观其历史，中国一直饱受巨大叛乱的困扰，从8世纪的安史之乱到19世纪的太平天国之乱。这些叛乱总是给人类生活 与经济造成难以置信的破坏力。他们时常使中国暴露在外族征服上，随着在17世纪明朝的陨落和1930年代日本人的征服。他们有时会造成极大破坏性和非正常 政权的兴起，例如毛泽东在20世纪的统治地位。
Why does China have all these major rebellions? Because it’s big. Large countries are geographically and industrially diverse, and therefore it becomes difficult to agree on what public goods to provide (this is why city-states are often very efficient). Regions fight over resources. In addition, China is endowed with very few natural resources relative to its enormous population size, meaning that food and water shortages can be acute and terrible.
为什麽中国有这些重大的叛乱？因为它很大，由於大型国家在地理和工业上的多样化，因此变得很难就供给何种公共产品 上达成一致意见(这就是城市国家能常常高效率的原因)，地区抢占资源。此外，中国被赋予相对很少的天然资源来应付庞大的人口规模，意味着粮食和水资源短缺 会是严重和可怕的。
China’s incredible bigness has other drawbacks. It made China difficult to defend in ancient times. In modern times, it means that China has lots of powerful neighbor—India, Russia, and Japan—with whom relations are not always smooth. And some historians, such as Jared Diamond, have argued that China’s size held back its technological progress; because it could win wars by sheer size and rely on its domestic economy, they argue, China was never forced to invest in military technology or open itself up to trade.
中国不可置信的巨大也有其他缺点。这让中国在远古时期很难防卫。在现代就意味着中国有很多强大的邻居—印度、俄罗 斯和日本—而且同他们的关系并不一直顺利。而一些历史学家像是贾雷德·戴蒙德辩称，中国的规模阻碍了科技进步；因为它可以用绝对规模和依靠国内经济在战争 取胜，他们争辩，中国从不被迫投资军事技术或者通过贸易来对外开放。
To understand how China’s constraints are threatening its rise today, read In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade. Authors Damien Ma and William Adams discuss not only China’s resource constraints, but also how its heterogeneity—the deep divides between urban and rural, interior and coast, rich and poor—represents a real constraint on development.
要理解中国受限的条件正在威胁今天的崛起，仔细阅读10亿人的背後：在未来10年将决定中国的崛起是如何的不充 足。作者达米安·马和威廉·亚当斯，不但讨论中国的资源限制，而且还讨论到它的不均衡性—城市和农村间、内陆和沿岸、富裕和贫穷的深刻鸿沟，代表了发展方 面的真正制约。
Fortunately for China, this time may really be different. Modern communication and transportation technology mean that a big country is easier to defend and to integrate. Globalization, and China’s embrace of trade, mean that China is more open than it was during most of its history. But China has shown signs of worryingly isolationist instincts, harassing foreign companies operating within its borders. Meanwhile, China’s increasingly aggressive policies toward its neighbors—notably Japan and India, but also Vietnam and the Philippines—run the risk of inviting an effort at containment. The “Middle Kingdom,” like Germany in Europe a century ago, runs the risk of fighting all of its neighbors at once.
对於中国幸运的是，这次可能真的不同。现代通讯和运输技术意味着一个大国家更容易防守并一体化。全球化与中国拥抱 的贸易，意味着中国比它大部分时间的历史更加开放。但是中国已经有迹象展现令人担忧的孤立主义，骚扰境内经营的外国公司。与此同时，中国对邻国日益侵略性 的政策—特别是日本和印度，也包含越南和菲律宾—冒着招受竭力围堵的风险。这个”中央王国”就像一世纪前的欧洲德国，冒着立即引来对抗所有邻国的风险。
In other words, China is vulnerable now for the same reason it was vulnerable in ages past. History is not a tale of Chinese preeminence, but a tale of Chinese oscillation. The same thing that often kept China from realizing its potential as the world’s dominant nation—its tremendous, unwieldy size—means that although it will surpass the US in total GDP, its supremacy may well be short-lived and incomplete.
换句话说，中国出於同样原因现在比过去时期还要容易受到攻击。历史并不是在讲述中国的卓越故事，而是中国历史的振 荡故事。同样的事情，往往使中国实现其潜力成为世界上占主导地位的国家—巨大又穷於应付的规模—这意味着虽然它会在整体GDP超越美国，它的霸权很可能是 昙花一现和不完全的。
I would also think that China doesn’t have anything approaching the network of allies and alliances across the planet that the United States does. Certainly our own size and policies can be coercive, but I think we are much closer to being a benign hegemon than China can possibly be, and that will continue to work to our advantage. Geographically, China isn’t exactly surrounded by allies, either.
Another big factor is that China doesn’t have major expansionist tendencies. The flash points are Taiwan (currently threaded with 1 country, two systems) and potential oil/gas rights under the Spratley Islands. But it isn’t like Germany in WW1 or WW2, looking to significantly expand. Except for Zhang He and his fleet, China has always felt that China itself is the best place to be and the only place that really matters. It is fine with internal prosperity and external respect (and trade to secure that internal prosperity).
The US straddles the globe somewhat through accident, because of WW2 and then the Cold War. China won’t develop (and won’t try to develop) a similar network.
And being the big guy in the neighborhood for 2,000 years (except briefly in the 19th and 20th Century) has led to plenty of feuds with the neighbors, so the current borders seem pretty stable.
另一个大因素是中国不具备重大的扩张主义倾向。引爆点在台湾(目前穿插着一个国家、两套制度)和位在南沙群岛之下 的潜在石油和天然气开采权。但是这跟德国在一战和二战期望明显的扩张不一样。除了郑和和他的舰队外，中国始终认为中国本身就是最好的地方。维持内部繁荣及 外部的尊重就已满足(而贸易是为了确保内部繁荣)。
Well written and concise. China’s problem is the inflexible Central Committee, bureaucracy, and a national inflexibility towards change I have seen in too many Chinese. For all the “advances” there are millions in abject poverty and a government spending on the military and space that is not warranted. Chinese government statistics should always be taken with large grains of salt.
The Sanity Inspector
China? There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes he will move the world.
— Napoleon Bonaparte
China is a civilisation, masquerading as a nation state.
— Lucian Pye
Talking about China as if it’s been a unified thing for thousands of years is definitely wrong. The country repeatedly divided up into smaller kingdoms, re-unifying under stronger dynasties, and then falling apart again. One of the more prosperous periods – the southern Song Dynasty, in the 1200s and 1300s as mentioned – happened after northern China was conquered and ruled as a separate set of entities.
A lot of the country’s “bigness” also happened because of a boom period in the 1600s and early-to-mid 1700s, petering out in the late 18th century. During that period, the Chinese population grew enormously (in part because of new crops from the Americas), and the country overall boomed and expanded.
把中国说得好像几千年来就是一个统一国家肯定是错误的。该国多次分裂成数个较小的王国，在强盛的王朝下重新统一，而且再度四分五裂。一个更加繁荣的时期 – 南宋，就如上文提到的13世纪和14世纪 – 是在中国北方被征服并作为一套单独的实体加以统治後产生。
But China has been very populous for a very long time. The Tang capital Chang’An (according to Wikipedia and references therein), around 750 CE, was called a “million people’s city” in Chinese records, while modern estimates put it at around 800,000–1,000,000 within city walls. There was no city in Europe, for example, remotely approaching this population at that time.
Right, exactly. And also because of the Manchu conquest — it was the Manchus who expanded the Empire’s territory so greatly by adding Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and, of course, Manchuria. The core Han territory in the Central Plan has been vastly enlarged.
是的，没错。也是因为满人的征服 — 因为满人将帝国领土如此极大地扩张，增加了xz、xj、内蒙古，当然还有满州。在这个中央计画下汉人领地被大幅度扩大。
I have to say that it is quite difficult to understand the relevance of the historical comparisons you provide. So, Rome was more advanced than China — does that mean that Italy’s supremacy is ‘inevitable’? And to say that China is showing ‘isolationist’ tendencies because it is ‘harrassing foreign companies’ is really misleading. What China is being is protectionist, but no more so than a lot of other countries who’ve developed rapidly in East Asia in the last 50 years. Your statement that China is showing isolationist instincts is qtuie baffling, actually; surely the country is continuing to open more and more, to trade, investment, tourism (in both directions) study abroad and so on.
No one that I know thinks China’s global supremacy is ‘inevitable’. No one that I know thinks that China’s rise is made likely by some historical records of China’s greater development in ancient times. What people see is facts; China’s very rapid growth, China’s impressive improvement in education, health care and poverty reduction in recent years, China’s moon rover and Olympic performance, and so on. This is too important an issue to be discussed so sloppily. Sorry.
所以说，罗马比中国更先进 — 是不是代表义大利的霸权地位就是必然发生？而且又说中国正显示出孤立主义的倾向，因为它骚扰外国公司？这是真的在误导。中国现在做的是贸易保护主义，但是 没有多少国家比起东亚地区在过去50年来发展的如此迅速。人们看到的是事实：中国非常高速的增长、中国教育令人印象深刻的改善、医疗保护以及近年来的脱 贫、中国的月球探测车和奥运会的表现等等。这个议题太过重要以至於不该讨论得如此草率。抱歉。
First up, the isolationist tendencies are in the form of withdrawing from their recent attempt at projecting soft power and cultural exports. There was a huge push in the last few years to try and make other countries more “Chinese”, this project was quietly abandoned recently and China as a state has withdrawn from many areas after middling success.
1.) Rome technically was not more “advanced” than China was, it just enjoyed better leadership*, cultural drive*, trade*, that awesome mediterranean climate*, and didn’t have to worry about such an unwieldy territory until its last four centuries. Rome is not Italy and Post-Communist China is not Wu Kingdom.
2.)”China’s greater development in ancient times”.
You mean the 3500 years of sustained civil war, warlords, failed invasions, conquest by foreign powers, banditry, economic instablilty, and general inability to do anything outside of extremely favorable local environs? I’m not saying that this ties into modern China at all but please don’t fall into the tired old themes of ancient grandeur and Orientalism. See the Rome comment above
3.) The rapid growth you mention and the Olympic performace confuse me. China’s economy is slowing, to an extent that even the state can no longer boost numbers with mandated construction. Yes, there is still a great deal of industry, consumption, construction etc that is legitimate going on, but the past decade of policy did not enable a sustainable foundation. A great example would be that astounding Olympic Complex the government built, it was used for spectacle and now is quietly abandoned because it was built to amaze, not function. China is not the only offender with this, but using Olympics as a metric for a “great” nation is pretty shallow.
Ojects marked with a * means those things were uniquely Roman identifiers and only worked for Romans, in Rome, pursuing Roman objectives, and between 769BCE and 476CE
Seems to me you are mostly objecting to the original article, not to my comment. My point is that whatever one thinks of ancient Rome and ancient China, these are not reasons to assume that success or failure are inevitable today.
There is simply no definition of ‘isolationist’ that fits China today or China’s tendencies. China is now the largest aid donor in Africa and in many countries elswhere. The largest trading nation in the world. China is sending more and more students abroad and receiving more and more students from abroad. I agree with you about ‘soft power’. But that hardly demonstrates isolationism, a withdrawal from engaging the rest of the world. It is simply a change in how China engages.
I agree that rapid growth is probably not sustainable. Many challenges face China. I was not presenting my own judgment about sustainability, inevitability, whatever. Simply pointing out that to the extent that people see China as a rising superpower it is not because China invented paper and gunpowder two millennia ago, but because of the things they see about China when they watch the news, when they shop, etc.
很简单，没有适合目前中国或符合中国倾向对於孤立主义的定义。中国现在是非洲或其他国家的最大援助国。世界最大贸 易国。中国还在让越来越多学生出国并从国外接收越来越多的学生。我同意你对软实力的看法。但是，这很难证明是孤立主义，或是攻进世界其他地方的撤退行动。 很简单，就是在於中国如何许诺下的改变。
Modern-day Italians, Greeks, Egyptians, etc. typically do not consider themselves as direct descendants of the ancient Romans, Greeks or Egyptians. They have the intelligence and humility (and understanding of history) to know that and boast about it. But the Chinese – boy they will boast to you about their 4000-year-history every time they have a chance to do so. And the Han (majority breed in China now) are pretty much a result of mixed breeding of every race that came in to subjugate China one time or another over the course of history (Turks, Mongols, Jurchens, Manchus) so the Modern Han Chinese relationship to the Ancient Chinese (and its history) is no stronger than the aforementioned people living in the place that spawned the great civilizations.
现代的意大利人、希腊人、埃及人，通常不认为他们自己是古罗马人、古希腊人、古埃及人的直接後裔。他们拥有智慧和 谦虚 (和历史认知)， 知道并拥有它。但是中国人 – 他们只要一有机会，男的会跟你自吹自擂他们4000年的历史。还有汉民族 (现在主要在中国的血统)几乎是每个种族混种之後的结果，这排在征服中国的同时或其他时间的历史长河中 (突厥人、蒙古人、女真人、满族人)，所以现代中国汉族与中国古代人(还有它的历史)的关系，没有比上述生活在养育伟大文明的原本地方来的强。
What a worthless article. It can summed up as “History is complicated so who knows?” The writer won’t even take a stand so far as issuing predictions.
That is because he is smart. It is only a fool who would claim they know with certainty that China will or will not become the world’s preeminent power in this century.
“Why China’s Global Supremacy Is Not Inevitable.”
I think this title is not meaningful for Chinese leaders as it is for western speculators.
I assume Chinese leaders, bombarded with so many domestic problems, some even unsolvable, would have no time and no ambition to contemplate this West-created theme. I assume what in their mind must be the ever-degrading environment, the economic imbalance, the prevailing corruption, the survival of the communist regime, and much more.
In addition, this article is making too ambitious an attempt, trying to answer such a West-created theme from a historical perspective of 5000 years, in such a short essay. Also, the past may not be a good analogy for the present. In ancient China probably most of the continent was occupied by nobody, so what is the point to talk about urbanization. I do agree though that China, a large continent, may not be endowed with enough and diverse natural resources.
In short, why speculates a protagonist’s supremacy when it has not thought of it seriously itself.
另外，这篇文章正在制造过於野心勃勃的尝试，试图从5000年的历史角度，在这麽短的文章回答一个西方创造的题 目。还有，过去对现在来说可能不是一个很好的比喻。在中国古代可能大部分的陆地无人占领，所以如何言及城市化的意义。我同意中国是一个大型陆地，可能无法 被赋予足够多样的自然资源。
China’s entry into capitalism seem to me to be one of the keys. From berating the filthy capitalists they seem to have realised that being free to be productive is not a bad thing.
Pointless argument, same as the ones about how China will never be the world’s superpower. It assumes what every western power wants or used to want and that is to dominate the world in one form or another. China is very much absorbed into herself and solving her numerous problems. All she wants is to have respect for her and protect herself. Admiral Cheng Her for example was only interested in exploring and exacting tribute, not colonising or conquering. Wait… I hear the trolls talking about Tibet already.
没有意义的争论，就跟猜测中国永远不会成为世界超级大国的人同样。文中假设每个西方大国想要或曾经想要的，也就是 称霸世界的一种形式或另一种。中国完完全全专注在自身并要解决众多问题。她需要的是受到尊重并保护好她自己。例如郑将军只对探索和索讨贡品感兴趣，而非殖 民和征服。等等…我好像听到了有人要扯xz了。
Who has been suggesting that china’s supremacy IS inevitable, or even possible? So much sensationalist speculation masquerading as ‘journalism’!