Saturday, February 22, 2014

Power Shift

So will there be a power shift that America loses?

This is interesting:

There was a time that I wanted to get into this field. I knew exactly what data the author had to be citing in the first chart--which I did not use here (the Correlates of War Project). I used it back in the day when I thought of going into quantitative analysis of war.

Those measures are valuable for long wars in the industrial age and earlier, but I'm not sure how it transitions to the modern era. By this measure China is more powerful than we are now, and has been since 1995. Which seems ridiculous on the face of it.

The four-measure (GDP, population size, military spending, and technology) power ranking puts off the day of a power shift but China still passes us by around 2030, or so.

Although if you assume our alliances hold and that power of numerous states is equivalent to the same unit of power wielded by a single state, China will take many more decades to surpass all of us in power.

Still, the noted power rankings reproduced above seems odd.

One, the rising Indian relative power ranking in the 4-measure calculation seems incredible and surely rests on population for a major component of power. I'm not sure how valid that is.

And while the multi-component power supposedly updates power for health, education, and governance not in the traditional measure, anything that ranks the European Union so highly in 2050 relative to other powers is suspect to me. Unless power is truly measured by the number of officially recognized cheeses, an EU power rank that high is laughable.

I suspect that the EU is just primed to be the most healthy, educated, and well-governed non-factor in global power consideration the world has ever seen.

Third, don't show this chart to Putin. I believe he'd be put on suicide watch given the apparent absence of Russian power surging back, which does not shock me. Russia is not "back" and they aren't coming back.

Fourth, even if our power sinks beneath India's to third place, much of China's and India's power will have to be focused on each other, absent a shocking alliance between the two. And don't speak of the Nazi-Soviet pact. That alliance between Hitler's national socialists and Stalin's bastion of socialism in one country was simply a ceasefire that each side thought would allow them to better position themselves for the ultimate showdown between them.

Regardless of our rank, America will remain the power with the most free power capable of being deployed to influence events around the globe.

Anyway, if China is a rising power relative to America (whether one includes our allies or not) and we even know how to measure national power, does a power shift indicate war?

That is, would we go to war with China fearing the loss of primacy? Would China go to war with America in anticipation of primacy? Or after gaining primacy?

One advantage we have in avoiding general war is that we lack a land frontier to have really tense face offs, the way we had with the Soviet Union at the Fulda Gap in West Germany during the Cold War. The vast Pacific gives us a bit of buffer to think clearly.

We are not in the position of Europe during its long history of warfare, whose powers had to figure shifting power when strong powers crowded each other on a small continent.

Unless China gains the ability to invade and occupy Japan, any Chinese gain such as South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, or Vietnam, will not give China a decisive advantage, but will give us notice that we are at war with China and allows us to wage a long war to disrupt China's trade and to seek an opportunity to counterattack around their periphery. The ability of China to really inflict a killing blow if they choose war doesn't seem terribly high to me, the way the USSR had the ability to inflict a major blow against NATO if the Red Army could advance to the Rhine River.

The reverse is true, too. We are not going to invade the Han heartland and try to occupy it.

So a power shift between America and China doesn't seem nearly as dangerous as it was in the past, which we define as Europe-based.

Note too that the scale stops at 2050. I suspect that the trend lines will reverse after 2050 through 2100, given Chinese demographic problems compared to US projections.

So maybe there will be another power shift back in our favor should China actually pass us in power by 2050.