Can China truly be recognized as a superpower if it does not become more democratic?Can China truly be recognized as a superpower if it does not become more democratic?

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am actually confused as to why you think that democracy is a contributing factor when considering superpowers, ... I assure you, it is NOT.  I am guessing that you are thinking about the United States as a super power, ... and that is why your mind went there?  Just a guess.  One needs only think of Germany in the late 1930s and 1940s to understand that Hitler most definitely isn't considered a leader of a democratic Germany.  Nope, he was nothing less than a dictator!  And, yes, unfortunately, Germany was, in fact, a superpower at that time.

Probably a better question would have been, "What is the definition of a superpower?"  You would see that democracy is not part of the criteria.  If you take a look at eNotes' description, you would read the following:

A superpower is a state with a dominant position in the international system which has the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests.

So, there you go, ... a superpower doesn't necessarily need to be a democracy.  It has to be dominant.  It has to be influential over the rest of the world.  It has to bleed power.  It has to be able to protect itself.  Some definitions also include the tendency towards nuclear power, ... but it is not in eNotes general definition.

But let's get to the very interesting idea of China being a superpower.  In regards to China holding so much power in the form of our own national debt (in the United State), it does tend to have a dominant position over us then, doesn't it?  Anyone who is owed money has the position of power.  It's one of the reasons why the new "Tea Party" of our country thinks we are in so much trouble.  Therefore, I'm afraid that, yes, China is a superpower.  Are they more super than we are?  Heck, I hope not.  But we shall see, ...

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is absolutely nothing (in my opinion) that says that a country cannot be a superpower unless it is democratic.  As an example of this, the Soviet Union was the second superpower in the world for a few decades and it was way less democratic than China is now.

It may be that China will have a harder time influencing other countries through "soft power" than the US does if China is not democratic.  On the other hand, it might actually help China.  For example, many authoritarian countries (such as ones in Africa) like China better than they like the US right now because China trades with them without trying to tell them what to do.

At any rate, China's economic and (perhaps some day) military power will make it a superpower whether it is democratic or not.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Somehow I believe that we already consider China a superpower because of the following reasons: The availability of its workforce, the fact that they have a very unique sense of spending, the affordability of their services in general, the fact that they manage to survive through a myriad of situations that Americans won't even begin to imagine, and-most of all- the fact that they have a system of communication in the form of dialects that even the sharpest M.I person in the US won't be able to crack. Hence they have it ALL: The money, the number of people, the sense of nationalism, the communications, the wits, the intelligence, and the lack of arrogance that will be the very factors that can plunge us down to the abyss if we do not watch it.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

China's democracy or lack thereof is not a factor in determining if it should be deemed a superpower. During the Cold War, there were only two recognized superpowers: the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union had nothing resembling democracy in its governmental system; in fact it equated democracy with capitalism which was the arch enemy of the communist system.  The primary qualifier of a superpower is a nation which has sufficient power to influence events and protect and or project its own interests on a worldwide scale. Obviously, with its dominant position in world markets and its tremendous financial strength, China qualifies as a superpower.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I totally agree with the Pohnpei's previous post concerning the fact that democracy has little to do with being a superpower. Prior to their breakup, the far-from-democratic Soviet Union was the world's major superpower along with the United States. Before we began using the term, Nazi Germany was certainly the most dominant military threat in the world. Currently, China is the most populous nation in the world, and it maintains the largest military. They may also be the wealthiest country in the world as well, so it would be ridiculous to discount their power and influence upon other nations just because they are non-democratic.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Democratic institutions have little to do with actual economic and military power.  I don't know that I agree China is a superpower.  They have a large army, and it is more modern than it used to be, but at the same time they have a very small navy, few, if any troops stationed anywhere outside their country and they lack the ability to project their power outside of nuclear weapons.

Their economy has boomed in recent years, but will soon run up against the limits of energy supplies that are finite.  They own a lot of American debt, to be sure, but they need our imports to stay at their current economic level.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most superpowers throughout history have not been democratic. The Soviet Union was for many decades considered the only other superpower besides the United States at that time, but it was unfortunately not democratic. I wish it were the case that true "superpower" status required that a nation be democratic, but that has rarely been true in the past and is, I regret to say, not always likely to be true in the future. There is some chance that China may evolve into a more democratic nation, perhaps as its people become more and more familiar, through personal exposure, with democratic nations.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly it can. I'm not aware of type of governmental structure having any connection to the usual indicators defining what does or does not make a country a "superpower". More important than governmental format are factors like economic status in relation to other nations of the world (impact of its foreign trade, both imports and exports, in the world markets); military potential and realized power (forces and armaments); and potential for a growing sphere of influence in world affairs in the future.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to concur with other editors on this one. It would be lovely if we lived in an ideal world where titles such as being a "superpower" could only be gained through adherence to a certain moral code or political system. However, this has never been the case. Being a "superpower" has nothing to do with being democratic or not, but rather has to do with money, power and prestige. This makes China a superpower without the need for democracy.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous posts.  Superpower status has never really been about the moral authority that can come with being a democracy.  Superpower status comes from having a strong economy and a strong military.  It comes from being able to use those things to influence other countries around the world.  The Soviet Union was clearly a superpower even though it was never democratic.  Democracy is not necessary for superpower status.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I honestly don't think democracy has much to do with it.  China does have barriers to being a superpower, and that mainly has to due with a huge population that is mostly living in poverty.  There are parts of China that can rival the US and other superpowers, but there are parts of China that rival Africa for destitution.

krishna-agrawala | Student

A country qualifies or fails to qualify as a super power on the basis of its economic and military power. The form of government of the country has no relevance to definition of a country as a super power.

Thus if and when China is recognized as a super power, this may happen even with china continuing as a Communist country rather than a true democracy. As a matter of fact there are some experts who believe that the growth in economic and military power has been aided, rather than hampered by the form of government it has. It is believed that under democratic rule, China may not have been able to achieve the degree of labor discipline and investment under democratic that it has achieved under the communist rule. According to these experts the communist form of government has increased, rather than decreased the chances of China becoming a super power.