China’s global leadership list

What should the U.S. do to try and keep up with China?


A vast majority of Americans have absolutely no clue how advanced China has become. Look at the social media comments, and it’s clear that too many Americans – especially Trump supporters – are filled with misinformation and prejudice. “China is 100 years behind” … “All Chinese products are crap” … “China can’t innovate” … “It’s a communist, poor, polluted country” … and, of course, the most popular theme is “China’s economy is about to collapse.” It’s hard to change these opinions, since those people reinforce their biases by gleefully consuming and sharing only anti-China articles. Anything remotely positive about China is attacked as “Chinese propaganda.”

This potent mix of ignorance and hubris is also precisely why western corporations gladly and voluntarily shared their intellectual property (IP) with their Chinese joint-venture partners. The term “forced technology transfer” was invented retroactively only after Chinese corporations started threatening western profits – for example: Huawei has overtaken Apple, Nokia and Ericsson in smartphones, 5G and telecom infrastructure; BYD manufactures more electric vehicles than Tesla; Alibaba and Tencent process 50x more mobile payments than the US; and the most valuable (ByteDance) and the most innovative (Meituan) startups are Chinese.

While it’s true that China as whole has a long way to go in GDP-per-capita, many big cities in China are essentially “developed economies.” Plus, China has surpassed the US in many areas and is catching up in others.  

If you don’t know your competitor, you’re certain to lose the game. So here are some quick statistics on China’s global leadership:

Economy, manufacturing and trade

  • #1 in foreign exchange reserves (>$3 trillion)
  • #1 holder of U.S. debt (>$1 trillion)
  • #1 trade partner for 130 countries.
  • #1 in contribution to global GDP growth for the past decade (25-35%, which is twice that of the U.S.). That is, if the world GDP grows by $100, then $25-$35 comes from China.
  • #1 in steel, cement, aluminum production (link, link, link). In three years (2012 – 2015), China used more cement than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century. (link)    
  • #1 in manufacturing of conventional cars (>26 million per year).
  • #2 in hi-tech manufacturing


  • #1 in production of rice, wheat, potato, beer(!), tea, apple, strawberry, grapes and numerous other grains, vegetables and fruits. (link)

Poverty and middle class

  • #1 in Middle Class population (350 million in 2018; and it overtook the US in 2015)    
  • #1 in poverty elimination (800 million lifted out of extreme poverty)  


  • #1 in solar, wind and hydroelectric power (link)   
  • #1 in electric cars – manufacturing and sales (link)   


  • #1 in skyscrapers – more than half of all skyscrapers are in China (link)  
  • #1 in high-speed railways or bullet trains (30,000 Km or 18,000 miles)
  • #1 in global infrastructure projects. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) involves 152 countries and international organizations. (link)  

Science, research & development

  • #1 in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) college graduates (4x as many as the US)   
  • #1 in Artificial Intelligence (AI) funding, startups and publications (link, link)    

What should the U.S. do? Try to “contain” China? Start World War III to maintain our global hegemony? Become depressed and paranoid? Thankfully, the answer to all those questions is, “NO.” There are constructive things that America can and should do to prepare for the future. I will discuss those in my next article.


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