Daniyal K. Chawala

Daniyal K. Chawala

Daniyal loves music and has a keen interest in global politics.
Daniyal K. Chawala

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Encompassed by the prodigious crusade for global superiority, the World of today contemplates the million – or rather 1.244 trillion – dollar question: Is China going to replace USA as the World’s next Superpower?

To our misfortune, the question is too complex for a convenient yes or no answer. The notion of China’s triumph over USA is as debatable as the features of a Global Superpower are undefined. Nevertheless, numerous commentators have assessed this game of thrones. Their motley of viewpoints are furthered by their differing ideas of the factors that make a country a superpower.

For instance, commentators Nake M. Kamrany – “Professor of Economics, University of Southern California” – and Frank Jiang – “Research member of the USC Global Income Convergence Group and a senior at USC” – focus on the economic aspect of the wrangle (in an article titled China’s rise to Global Economic Superpower). They remain optimistic of China’s economic growth and postulate that “It is most likely that China will maintain its lead in economic ranking of GDP in the foreseeable future”.

On the other hand, commentator Ian Bremmer – author and president of Eurasia Group – conveys that he is positive that China poses virtually no threat to USA’s position as the World’s Superpower in an article titled These Are the 5 Reasons Why the U.S. Remains the World’s Only Superpower. Displaying a relatively wider spectrum, Bremmer assesses five (3+2) factors that make USA the Superpower i.e. economics, military, and political influence (and innovation and culture/lifestyle).

In spite of the tireless ongoing debate regarding the possible change of the Global Superpower, commentators, by large, are overlooking one factor of enormous significance: Media!

Media is a remarkably colossal force. If used to its potential, it provides a Country with the power to ideologically influence the masses across the globe. Such propagates the country’s features, such as growth, achievements, values, language, culture etc. In addition to that, it can make-up for the shortcomings of its beholder. Thereby, an industrious media is what truly epitomizes a Global Superpower.

Unfortunately for China, American Media is an unrivaled behemoth. It is largely the American media that has made the USA the World’s Jordan Belfort: influence and charisma intertwined with controversial heroism. With its globally-consumed and ever-growing film industry, US Media has ideologically Americanized an enormous part of the World’s population. Such ideological influence has provided the USA with a virtually undivided spotlight at a global stage.

To get a perspective, try asking a stranger who the first person in space was. Chances are that unless that stranger happens to be related to the Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (the actual first person in space), he or she will incorrectly answer ‘Neil Armstrong’. The influential American Media is to thank for such tactical deception. It continued to penetratingly propagate the feat of Mr. Armstrong until a massive chunk of the World’s population became desensitized to USA’s point of persuasion and Mr. Gagarin’s pioneer met with its eventual evanescence. The relative lag of NASA was dearly compensated for by the influential American media. All respect to the polymaths in the Soviet Space Program but without the possession of a strong media to propagate USSR’s achievement, doing something ‘out of the world’ brought little more than a strong sense of self-satisfaction and a long list of utility bills.

Thereby, even if we – for the sake of the argument – suppose that (sometime within the 21st century) China manages to possess the largest economy, the strongest military, and the most political influence; China will still not be able to become the Global Superpower that USA is unless the Chinese media overpowers the titanic American media.

So, can the Chinese media overpower its American counterpart? Nowhere within the realms of plausibility. Although evolving, the Chinese media is in no state for a global ideological takeover – at least not anytime in the perceivable future.  Such lack of potential can be safely attributed to Chinese media’s limited foreign expansion.

Granted, the Chinese film industry has done well in recent years; the Chinese film The Mermaid (2016) epitomizes the industry’s success story. The Mermaid stormed Chinese theaters and made 3.391 billion Yuan ($0.55 Billion) in China’s box office, becoming the record-holder of the highest-grossing film in the country. In addition to its domestic reception, the film voyaged the International theaters with great success. In this context, an International Business Times article by Matt Pressberg stated, “The Chinese film has brought in the highest per-theater average of any movie in North America for two straight weeks.”

However impressive its recent surge may be, the Chinese film industry still lags far behind its American nemesis. A quick glance at the list of highest-grossing films of all time vividly exemplifies the dominance of Uncle Sam’s camerawork. 35 out of the 50 highest-grossing films of all time are American, while the remaining 15 are British. No Chinese film made the list. Naturally, such high figures are accompanied by a mammoth of cultural and ideological export.

Take Captain America Civil War (2016) for example. The ironically-named American blockbuster played in theatres across the world. The film racked $5 Million in Turkey; $12 Million in Brazil; $16 Million in Russia; $25 Million in Australia; $39 Million in Mexico; and, last but by no means the least, $190 Million in China (Figures are approximated to the nearest Million). Even the less-talked-about countries like Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania were caught in the crossfire, each consuming hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Civil War.

Granted that American Media cannot completely nullify the significance of China’s features, but it can amplify the significance USA’s features. For instance, how many consumers of the glamorous The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) realize that – according to Forbes – top three positions of the World’s Largest Public Companies In 2016 are held by Chinese financial-service firms? Similarly, how many consumers of the Vegas-glorifying The Hangover (2009) care to know that Macau has a much greater gambling industry than Las Vegas does?

This vast difference of global consumption and reception between American and Chinese films displays a meaning much more profound than just greater revenue generation. The Chinese media may have some influence on its homefront but it does not possess a fraction of global ideological influence that the American media does. Thereby, even if China overwhelms USA in all other factors required for a Global Superpower, it will still not possess nearly the same type of global supremacy that USA does due to its relatively underwhelming media. The population will not be awe-struck by China’s tales of superiority the way it presently is by USA’s.

The world is a classroom. Like any classroom, whoever yells the joke the loudest gets the praise –regardless of who said it first or the best: USA is, by far, the loudest kid in the class. USA still holds the power to largely downplay the features of its rivals, including those of China, and uphold its own in the eyes of the public. Economy, military, and political influence are important factors for China to become a Global Superpower but a globally influential media that ideologically propagates these factors (and more) to the masses is even more so.