China is the oldest civilization and the fourth largest country in the world. Its territory (9,640,821 km²) is twice as large as that of the EU. It is the world's most populous country, with nearly 1.5 billion people – an economic superpower. China is now the world's leading power in many aspects. Let us present 10 interesting maps and figures to understand China's importance to the world economy in the new Eurasian world order.
China and the region's natural geographical map
Comparison of the population of China and other countries
In terms of population, China has a greater population than India, or the entire population of Africa; what’s more, if we superimpose the population of individual countries on China’s map, there is room for Europe’s, the United States’, Australia’s, and South America’ population as well. Each country is located on the map based on the size of its population.
If we look at the world’s countries by GDP (PPP), China has overtaken the United States by 2017 and has the highest GDP in purchasing power parity.
Countries by GDP (PPP) in 2017
– China has taken over the lead
Source: Parag Khanna – Future is Asian
In the context of world trade, the central role of the United States is far from clear, and the rise of Eurasia is all the more visible.
While the United States is the world's most important trading partner for only 52 countries, China is already considered the number one trading partner by 128 countries.
The IMF trade database shows that either China or the United States were larger among each country’s trading partners between 1980 and 2018. In 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization, more than 80% of countries traded more with America than with China. By 2018, however, this figure completely reversed and more than two thirds of countries traded more with China than with the United States. The turning point was the global financial crisis of 2008, when China exceeded the United States. The maps below also show that the situation of global trade has now changed significantly. Trade partners of individual countries (countries with a greater trade with China are in red, and countries with a greater trade with the US are in blue). Similarly, China is leading in exports, too.
Trading partners of individual countries –
China is the number one trading partner of 128 countries
Source: Lowy Instute
Exporting countries by size
China as a technology superpower
Today there are 7 technological areas in which China has doubled its results: artificial intelligence, supercomputers, quantum mechanics, semiconductors and chips (rare earth metals), brain research, genomics and biotechnology as well as deep-sea research and space technology.
China is the global leader in the export of computers, and it is also the world leader in supercomputers with 202 computers. The US currently has 143, Japan 35, Germany 20, France 18 and the UK 15 supercomputers. Relation to quantum technology, 3300 patents were notified in China last year, 1540 in the United States, 500 in Japan and 40 in the United Kingdom.
Computer exports in 2019
The most valuable Chinese software are Wechat, TikTok, Alibaba, Cheetah, Huawei and ZTE. In terms of countries dealing with artificial intelligence, the United States has been preceded by China, the third is Great Britain, and the first ten countries are India, Canada, Israel, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland. However, China's leading role in 5G technology is unquestionable.
The most important and largest 5G companies
Source: Lemonde Diplomatique, 2020
The ranking of countries using 5G
Countries with artificial Intelligence
Source: National AI Strategies
Technology sectors in the USA and China
Number of quantum technology patents in 2020
The significance of rare earths – the geopolitical fundamental law of the 21st century
Mackinder’s geopolitical doctrine adapted to the 21st century would read thus.
Who rules rare earth metals, commands the world.
China is by far the world leader in the exploitation of rare earths, which is an essential source of high-tech materials. It is no coincidence that China has secured a dominant market position, but a result of its long-term industrial policy developments. Rare earth metals are virtually only mined in China (97% of world production comes from here), China has 48% of the world's rare earth reserve (practically one large deposit near the Mongolian border), but there are also significant extractable reserves in South Africa, India, California, Australia, Greenland and Brazil. Despite this, rare earth metals are mined almost exclusively in China, 129 thousand tons per year according to 2009 data, while world production totals 132 thousand tons. At the same time, there is no other country that invest as much in renewable energy as China.
Location of key minerals and rare earth elements
The world's largest and most valuable banks
As regards the financial sector, the first 4 of the 10 largest banks in the world are Chinese and 6 Chinese banks are among the 10 best ones – the Bank of China, which operates in our country, is the world's fourth most valuable bank. China also leads the list in mobile payments (the first ten countries include South Korea, Vietnam, Denmark, India, the United Kingdom, The USA, Spain, Germany and France).
The world’s top 10 banks by brand value between 2009 and 2019
With regard to maritime trade, 7 of the 10 largest ports in the world today are located in China, and Shanghai has in recent years taken over the title of the largest port in the world from Singapore.
China's top urban centers and maritime trade routes
The world’s busiest ports in 2018
The new order of global cities – the advance of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen
In terms of global cities, the importance of Chinese urban centers is also increasing. There are three cities among the 10 top economic centers in the world, and if we display the number of urban billionaires on a map, we see that over the last seven years New York City has hosted more billionaires than any other city in the world. However, last year saw a monumental change in the status quo. Beijing took the lead and today it is the home of a 100 billionaires.
The world’s top 10 cities with the most billionaires
Source: Visual Capitalist
A new era of the Sun – China's sun fusion power plant
The 21st century is about fusion energy. Already in 2016, the discovery of the year was an announcement by LIGO’s researchers that they had managed to detect gravitational waves, which were the ripples of spacetime, and which Einstein concluded to exist as part of its general relativity theory. Most of the energy used today is derived from fusion, as the Sun is a self-regulating fusion reactor. The fusion reactor is a power generating facility that uses the energy surplus resulting from the fusion of nuclear cores. The Sun and the stars also use this kind of energy. Technology has therefore reached the point at which it can produce the minimum temperature necessary to initiate a self-sustaining fusion reaction on Earth.
A fusion reactor operating 10 times the temperature as that of the Sun can produce green energy within a few years.
China's first fusion power plant
In December 2020, the largest nuclear fusion reactor in China was launched, namely the Tokamak HL-2M fusion reactor in Sichuan province. In a few years' time, it is planned to produce renewable energy for China, but the experience gained will also be useful to European development.
Thus, China has launched the "Artificial Sun" for the first time in the world.
The operation of the reactor is based on the fusion of nuclear cores, that is the same principle as the Sun. Inside, however, they can produce up to 150 million degrees, which is 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun. Their major advantage over nuclear reactors is that they do not produce radioactive waste, emit greenhouse gases, and the likelihood of accidents is also lower. Nuclear fusion could be a new method of energy production, an alternative to fossil fuel combustion and the controversial nuclear fission in the long term.
Belt and Road: The most important geostrategic program of the 21st century
Source: Ágnes Bernek – Közép-európai Riport (Central European Report), 2018.
The Belt and Road Initiative is both the most important geostrategic program of the 21st century and the largest investment in world history. It is a coherent network of maritime routes and land-based economic corridors. Among the land-based economic corridors, the “New Eurasian Land Bridge”, which brings together 108 cities, is the most important. 14,000 trains run between China’s and Europe's most important cities per year with over 1.1 million tons of container freight. So far, more than 600 projects have been completed since the plan was launched: 41 pipelines, 203 bridge and motorway development projects, 199 power plants and new railway lines have been implemented and 12 new port development projects have been launched in Europe only in early 2019. The Belt and Road Initiative is joined by 6 major development zones on land (3 major routes) and sea (3 major routes).
The Belt and Road program can be summarised in the following 6 points: A concept and initiative. Two wings - the land and sea routes, that is the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road of the century 21st century. "Three principles": it is being built in everyone's interest, by everyone and for everyone. Four keywords: at macro level: connectivity, strategic synergy, capacity-building; at cooperation level: joint development of markets; at operational level: business management, market operations, government service and international standards. Five directions, which are the five main goals of connectivity: politics, infrastructure, trade, finance and "connecting people’s hearts”, all implemented through six economic corridors.
The main objectives for China over the next five years
China's economic growth in 2020 was 2.3%. Nevertheless, the Asian giant was the only major economy that could grow in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. To show confidence in the future of the Chinese economy, Beijing has set a target of 6% of GDP growth for this year, 2021. In the future, China will enter high income countries and double its GDP in 2020 by 2035.
China will increase R&D spending by at least 7% per year over the next five years and by 10.6% the resources invested in basic research, which is the source of scientific and technological innovation. China aims to double the number of high value-added patents per 10,000 persons in the next 5 years and increase the digital economy’s contribution to GDP from 7.8% to 10%.
The seven key areas of technology:
The seven specific key areas for research and development promoting technological self-sufficiency are artificial intelligence, quantum information, brain research, genetics and biotechnology, clinical medicine and health, deep-sea, Arctic and space research, and semiconductor development. For example, China has set a 70% self-sufficiency target for computer chips by 2025, against the current 20% target. National scientific centers will be set up in Beijing, Shanghai, Anhui and the Pearl River Delta, which will attract foreign talent through various programs, offering them an internationally competitive environment.
Energy security and climate policy:
China's objective is to reach the peak of its CO2 emissions by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2060.
The next five-year vision envisages a 13.5% reduction in energy intensity and an 18% reduction in carbon intensity. China wants to increase the share of non-fossil fuel energy from 15.9% to 20% by 2025, with nuclear energy and wind and solar energy playing a key role.
The importance of ecological civilization
China has been building an "ecological" civilization from 2007: this is the 21st-century continuation of an organic way of thinking, ancient Chinese philosophy and ancient Eurasian knowledge. Ecological civilization can become more effective than modern civilization if it provides its scientific basis. As the revival of ancient Greek knowledge enabled Europe to be a world leader in the Renaissance, so could be the return to ancient Eurasia’s even higher quality knowledge and value system the most important key to creating a new geocivilization. The ancient vision, ancient knowledge, philosophy, wisdom, religion, popular music, folklore and common traditions of the peoples of the Silk Road bear an ecological set of values, and the more complete discovery of ancient high literacy can help the peoples of the region to recover in cultural and social terms, to welcome a new renaissance at the dawn of the new world era of Eurasia.
The author is the President of the Board of Trustees of the Pallas Athéné Domus Meriti Foundation (PADME).