China’s reemergence as a wealthy and powerful nation is a fact. In recent decades its rise has been unprecedented, moving from the tenth-largest economy in 1990, to the sixth-largest economy in 2001, to the second-largest economy in 2010. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China now surpasses the United States in terms of purchasing power parity.
By the same measure, China’s economy was only half the size of America’s a decade earlier, and it is this trajectory that is moulding assumptions about the future regional power balance and order across the Indo-Pacific. Recent declines in growth and rising questions about future stability have yet to alter most perceptions about tomorrow’s China.
China’s deepening integration with the regional and global economy underscore the difficulty of pushing back when China transgresses rules and norms. Take the issue of infrastructure. Infrastructure will gradually redraw the strategic economic and security connectivity of the twenty-first century, and China’s infrastructure prowess has been on prominent display of late. President Xi initiated the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum with a speech touting the linear projection that China will invest some $1.25 trillion over the next decade overseas, and wants to invest $40 billion in re-establishing the old Silk Road while also building a new Maritime Silk Road.