Despite of its rise, it’s too soon to call China a global superpower, Volkskrant journalist Fokke Obbema argued. At today’s Brown Bag Lecture in the Erasmus Paviljoen, he discussed the relationship between China and the Western world.

All over the world, economists agree that Chinese economy is rising rapidly. There are even more and more voices saying that China has taken over the United States’ position as world leader. Obbema, who wrote the book ‘China & Europe’, pointed out three reasons why that conclusion is a bit rash.

1.    Will reforms occur indeed?

Since taking office as president in March 2013, Xi Jinping promised a lot of reforms in China. Most notable are the abolishment of labour camps and one child policy, as well as reducing corruption and improving China’s poor environmental policy. The journalist wonders if the Chinese president can live up to his promises. “This is a whole range of positive changes, but it is of course the question if Xi is able and willing to practice them all”, Obbema expressed his doubts.

2.    No game breakers

In the economic field, China has the capital, manpower and ambition to surpass the United States, but so far, America doesn’t have to worry about its leadership position yet. “China’s economy is about two third the size of America’s, and therefor it’s the second largest worldwide” said Obbema, who emphasized the lack of Chinese top brands. “China has no game breakers like Apple, Facebook or Google. In the top-100 enterprises, there’s not a single Chinese, which is of course disappointing for such a big player on the world stage.”

3.    No allies

To be a superpower, a country needs to have an array of allies. That’s exactly what China lacks, is the opinion of Obbema. “Their only real ally is North-Korea, not exactly the ideal partner. Other South-East Asian countries are a bit suspicious of Chinese policy, just as Europe and the United States are.”

Obbema concluded by saying China doesn’t always feel taken seriously by Western countries. Honest, open-minded interaction may be the key to a better relationship with China. “Europe should talk with one voice, emphasizing the importance of the environment and human rights. On the other hand, it should leave its superiority feeling behind. Maybe then China and the West can truly cooperate, just like what’s already happening at this university.” MvS