Some scholars have warned about the likelihood of rivalry, leading to conflict, between a rising power, China, and the incumbent super power, the United States.
Alarm about this may be premature.
The table in the file posted here shows that US military spending equals the combined military spending of China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the UK, Japan and South Korea.
This puts the rivalry of China and the US in proportion. It is not, at this stage, a competition between equals.
That said, Chinese military spending is rising more quickly albeit from a much smaller base.
Over the past thirty years the Chinese economy has also grown more quickly and its GDP already equals that of the US.
The US has already banned the export of certain technologies to China if these could have a military application. It is a small step from this to actively trying curb China’s natural economic growth. China could be expected to resent this deeply, if the US were to adopt such a stance.
China is thinking in a long perspective. Its goal is to have a “world class military” by 2049, the centenary of the Communist takeover of China. This is worrying for Taiwan in particular. Although the US recognizes Taiwan is legally Chinese, it backs its retaining its independence.
China’s population is beginning to age. The number of births in China in 2020 was 18% less than in 2019. The Chinese population of working age is beginning to decline.
By 2049, China may face a really hard choice between maintaining high levels of spending and supporting its large elderly population. In the west, where the elderly can vote, it would be able to influence such a choice in favour of elder support by voting for a party that prioritized spending on pensions over spending on the military. But China is a one party state so that option is not there.
Even so, the ageing of the Chinese population will tend to move China in a more peaceful direction.
I think Europe should make a clear distinction between its opposition to specific Chinese policies, both internally and in relations with its neighbours, and its acceptance of China’s right to become more prosperous in a peaceful and sustainable way.