The world’s two economic superpowers will meet soon for the third installment of their Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Beyond the specifics, the real issue for the United States and the world is China’s looming economic dominance. President Obama’s State of the Union address, after President Hu Jintao’s visit in January, showed the level of anxiety that policymakers feel about China as a potential rival and perhaps a threat, with growing economic, military and political power, including its bankrolling of American debt. But judging from the reaction to the president’s speech, that threat is not viewed as imminent. The same was said, some pointed out, of the rise of Russia and Japan, 40 and 20 years ago, respectively, and those threats turned out to be false alarms.
But what if the threat is actually greater than policymakers suppose?
According to the International Monetary Fund, for example, total U.S. gross domestic product in 2010 was $14.7 trillion, more than twice China’s $5.8 trillion, making the average American about 11 times more affluent than the average Chinese. Goldman Sachs does not forecast the Chinese economy overtaking that of the United States until 2025 at the earliest. Americans also draw satisfaction from their unmatched strengths of an open society, an entrepreneurial culture, and world-class universities and research institutions.